The U.S. Open isn’t the only professional golf tournament that’s won on Father’s Day. The Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give also wraps up on Sunday at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, Mich., and will also see a champion celebrate a victory with a winner’s check, a trophy and a special moment with their father, whether it be in spirit, in person or over the phone.
Many LPGA Tour players were first introduced to golf by their dads, who coached, supported and encouraged them as they moved through the ranks of the game, continuing to do so now that their little girl is competing at the highest level with the best in the world. Some players have them on the bag caddying, acting as trusted advisors to their daughters whom they know better than anyone else, walking alongside their child as they live their dreams inside the ropes. Others have dads that make the trek around every golf course, always there with a hug and a word of encouragement after the round, no matter if the scorecard says 65 or 75.
And every player wants to be the one holding the trophy on Sunday, making their families and their fathers proud, especially on Father’s Day.
Jennifer Kupcho knows what it’s like to hoist a trophy in her father’s honor. At last year’s Meijer LPGA Classic, instead of calling her dad, Mike, before her round, she decided to wait and see what would happen in the final round. Little did Kupcho know that she would ultimately emerge victorious from a gritty, three-way playoff with Nelly Korda and Leona Maguire to capture her second victory of the 2022 season and win on Father’s Day.
“I thought to myself this morning that I should call him,” Kupcho said in her post-round press conference after the win. “But I kept telling myself, no, like we'll call him after the round with the trophy in our hand, and I'm excited I can do that now.”
Reflecting on the win one year later, Kupcho now fully appreciates the magnitude of what she accomplished in Michigan in 2022 and hopes to repeat that success this year.
“My dad has always been a really big part of my life, both on the golf course and off the golf course, especially on the golf course. When I first came out, he caddied for me for the first five events. To be able to play on Father's Day and last year to win, it's always fun to play and have him watching and cheering me on,” said Kupcho. “(Winning again on Father’s Day) would be awesome. It was really special last year with my dad being such a big person in my golf career.”
Lindsey Weaver-Wright has always enjoyed playing the Meijer LPGA Classic and knows that taking home her first LPGA Tour title would be a perfect gift for her father, Craig. “I think it's awesome that we always play this tournament on Father's Day,” she said. “My dad got me into the game, so obviously it's important to me to play well on Father's Day to make him happy, give him a little gift there. I think it's fun.”
Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen is currently four back of the lead at the Meijer LPGA Classic, which might be a little too far back to pull off the improbable at a Blythefield Country Club that’s seen plenty of low scores this week. No matter where she ends up on Sunday, Pedersen will never forget the sacrifices that her dad made to get her to this point in her career and will be forever grateful to him as he relentlessly helped her chase after her professional golf dreams.
“My dad has meant so much. I started traveling at the age of 12 and he was a partner in the law firm, and he kind of went on his own so he could travel with me and I could pursue the dream already back then when I was so young,” recalled Pedersen. “It's meant the world to me. I definitely wouldn't be here without my dad. Without my mum either, but my dad traveled with me a lot when I was young.”
Aditi Ashok is one of those players whose father, Gudlamani, often loops for her. He’s been there for some of her biggest moments on the LPGA Tour, getting a front-row seat to his daughter’s success, and the 25-year-old is grateful for what he brings to her game in a caddie capacity.
“Apart from myself, I think he knows my game the best. In some situations, he probably knows it better than me. That's what's helped I think with him being my caddie, especially the previous three, four weeks where I've been in contention,” said Ashok. “In those situations, knowing he's seen my play and knows when I play well sometimes I hit the ball further, so just being able to adjust with all that.
“He's been obviously great. I probably wouldn't be here if not for him. I'm happy I'm playing well Father's Day weekend.”
Although the Republic of Korea celebrates Parents’ Day, not Father’s Day specifically, it would still mean a lot to 54-hole leader Amy Yang to pull out the victory on Sunday. The 33-year-old knows how hard her father worked to get her to this point in her life and would love to honor him by capturing her fifth career LPGA Tour win and first since the 2019 Honda LPGA Thailand.
“We’re really close and he sacrificed a lot for me to improve my game,” Yang said. “He moved to Australia with me. He was traveling with me up until like when COVID hit, so he's been always around and helping me. It means a lot.”
When the afternoon rolls around in Belmont, Mich., there will be another Meijer LPGA Classic champion either hugging her dad off the 18th green or calling her dad to share her success, shedding a tear of happiness in tandem with the person that helped to make it all happen, grateful that they were given the opportunity to realize their dreams of playing golf at the highest level.
But no matter what transpires on Sunday at Blythefield, every player in the field will still have a reason to celebrate. And every father will still have a daughter to love and cherish.