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Posted April 06, 2019 06:04 pm
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Jennifer Kupcho leans on her Augusta National caddie

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    Jennifer Kupcho hugs her caddie after winning the Augusta National Women's Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club, Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Augusta, Georgia. [ANDY NELSON/FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Jennifer Kupcho put her faith in Augusta National Golf Club caddie Brian McKinley when she started having blurred vision due to a migraine in the middle of the final round Saturday.

McKinley’s yardages to the greens and reads on the putts on those holes helped Kupcho until the vision problem passed. She went on to play her final six holes in 5-under to shoot 67 and win by four shots over Maria Fassi.

The vision problem started with a headache on No. 8 green, but the migraine kicked in on Nos. 9 and 10 and through her tee shot on No. 11. She parred No. 9 and 3-putted No. 10 for bogey, missing a short putt, then parred No. 11.

“I think on those holes when I couldn’t see, I was able to lean on him and trust him to tell me the yardage, tell me the up/down and to read the green. I mean, on nine green, I said, ‘I can’t see anything, so just tell me where to hit it.’

“I think that takes a lot of trust in him, and obviously I had seen him the last, how many holes, 27 holes, 26 holes (counting Friday’s practice round), how he was reading the greens, and I knew he had it. So I just had to trust him and go with it.”

Kupcho wouldn’t have had McKinley as her caddie if England’s Annabell Fuller had made the 36-hole cut at Champions Retreat and advanced to the final round at Augusta National.

McKinley worked for her, but she shot 73-77 and missed the cut.

McKinley had worked for Kupcho in the fall when her Wake Forest team visited Augusta National for a round. They teamed up again Friday for the practice round at Augusta National, and Kupcho elected to go with his experience instead of using her father Mike, who caddied for her at Champions Retreat.

FASSI’S FRIEND: Fassi had Hall of  Famer and fellow Mexican Lorena Ochoa in her gallery Saturday. Ochoa had been one of the four legends who hit opening tee shots earlier in the day.

“It’s great just to have her support and to know how much she cares about me and she wants to help, and it was just really exciting one of the first people I hugged after 18 was her,” Fassi said. “The things she told me was amazing. She was about to cry, and she said, ‘Hey, I’m so proud of you,’ and she was telling me about how much fun she had out there and how much fun it was to watch me play. She said, ‘Keep your chin up because you’ve got a long way ahead. Just shake it off and enjoy just being out here.’”

HELPING HAND: After parring No. 11, Kupcho made the short walk to No. 12 tee box. At the time, Kupcho trailed Fassi by two strokes when she spotted her Wake Forest teammates and head coach, Kim Lewellen, in the crowd.

“Jenn looks at us and holds up four fingers,” Lewellen said. “She stared right at us and goes, ‘I need four.’”

The four represented the number of birdies Kupcho felt like she needed to make on the last seven holes to win. She ended up making three birdies and an eagle.

Kupcho’s teammates had also rooted her to victory in the NCAA Championships last year when the team failed to qualify but continued on as an individual. She ended up being the medalist.

“So to come out here, I knew they were all coming and I knew it was going to be a team experience,” Kupcho said. “I know no matter what, they always have my back. So even though it was an individual event, I knew they had my back.”

DRIVE, CHIP AND PUTT: The sixth annual Drive, Chip and Putt finals begin at 8 a.m. today at Augusta National Golf Club with 80 juniors.

Hailing from 27 states and four Canadian provinces, they earned their invitations through qualifying sites since the 2018 Masters.

There are 10 finalists in the boys division and 10 in the girls division in each of the four age groups (7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15).

For each type of shot, a player will earn points for where they finish in their age group – from 10 points for first to 1 point for 10th – for a maximum of 30 points.

It will be shown on Golf Channel from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

WINNER’S PERKS: If Kupcho had been an underclassman, she would have received an invitation to the next five Augusta National Women’s Amateur events.

However, since she is a senior at Wake Forest and will turn pro in May and lose her amateur status, she won’t be back.

Other perks for the winner, had she remained amateur, were spots in the the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open, the 2019 Women’s British Open and any USGA, R&A and PGA of America amateur championships for one year.