Jennifer Kupcho captures Meijer Classic in thrilling three-way playoff

LPGA Communications

BELMONT, MI: It was a rough start for Jennifer Kupcho on Sunday at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, but the 25-year-old bounced back to notch her second career title after a playoff with defending champion Nelly Korda and Ireland’s Leona Maguire. Kupcho made an early double bogey on the third and a bogey on the sixth to drop to -14 and three back of Korda, but she rebounded quickly with an eagle on the par-5 eighth and birdie on the ninth to turn at -17 with a one-shot lead. Korda tied things up with a birdie on the 10th, and the pair carded matching birdies on the 12th to sit at -18. But Maguire wouldn’t be left out of the conversation. She made back-to-back birdies on holes 13 and 14 to move to -17 – one back of the lead at the time – and birdied the last to post the clubhouse lead at 18 under.

With the bar set, Kupcho bogeyed the 16th and Korda birdied the 18th to tie Maguire and force a three-way playoff. Things looked to be over when Kupcho hit her second shot to three feet with an 8-iron on the first playoff hole, but she lipped out her eagle putt. After a Korda three-putt, Kupcho and Maguire went back to the tee, and it ultimately took a missed shortie from Maguire to give Kupcho her second career LPGA Tour victory and the $375,000 winner’s check.

“I thought she was going to make it,” said Kupcho. “When she hit it by the hole and I still had to putt from the fringe I thought to myself, that’s not a gimme because I was just shaking and missed essentially a same-length putt. But then once I made the tap-in, I was already looking at the rules official to go to the next hole. Honestly, it was just a shock. She went to Duke, I went to Wake Forest. Playing with her so much, she doesn’t miss putts. I was really just shocked.”

The win comes just two and a half months since Kupcho became a Rolex First-Time winner at The Chevron Championship earlier this year and though getting the monkey off her back at Mission Hills was sweet, this win hits a little differently, especially coming on Father’s Day.

“I think this one is even better than the first personally,” said Kupcho. “I had such a big lead going into the final round at Chevron, so to come out of this one with top-ranked players all over the place, the leaderboard was packed, within strokes so it was very close, and I feel very proud of myself for coming out of it. I thought to myself this morning that I should call (my dad), 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.”

Although the three-putt on the first playoff hole stung, Nelly Korda is still taking plenty of positives away from her week at Blythefield Country Club. Spending time away from the game has given the Rolex Rankings No. 2 some perspective and while she would’ve loved to defend her title, she’s still really pleased with where her game is at after so few starts this season.

“I fought my way back on the back nine and snuck into the playoff,” said Korda, who earned her third top five of the season. “Unfortunately, sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. If you told me I think three, four months ago when I was in the ER that I would be here I would be extremely happy.”

Rolex Rankings No. 4 Lydia Ko fired a 4-under 68 on Sunday to finish in solo fourth at -17, with a foursome of players in a tie for fifth at -16 under including LPGA Tour rookie Atthaya Thitikul and 2015 Meijer LPGA Classic champion Lexi Thompson. 11-time LPGA Tour winner Brooke Henderson and Wei-Ling Hsu rounded out the top 10 at 15 under.

Canadian Notes: One week after her final round comeback to win the ShopRite Classic, Brooke Henderson (T9) couldn’t repeat the magic, finishing with an even par round of 72, three shots out of the playoff. Maude-Aimee Leblanc was T40 and Alena Sharp, playing in her first event after a long layoff, was T56.

Fairways Magazine

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