With Jennifer Kupcho, a sophomore from Littleton, Colo., ripping off a final-round 66 Sunday to take individual medalist honors, it was a record-breaking weekend for Kupcho and her Wake Forest teammates as she led the Demon Deacons to an impressive five-shot victory in the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational.
Kupcho’s 54-hole total of 15-under-par 201 over the 6,379-yard, par-72 Finley Golf Club layout in Chapel Hill, N.C. was a school record and Wake Forest’s 10-under 854 team total was a school and tournament record.
Wake Forest was under par in each round, capping its team showing with a 3-under 285 total that enabled the Demon Deacons to finish five shots ahead of perennial SEC power Alabama. The Crimson Tide entered the final round tied with Wake Forest, but fell back with a 2-over 290 that gave them a 5-under 859 total.
Arkansas, which was also under par in each round, had a final-round 287 and finished third at 4-under 860. North Carolina State, with a final-round 289, was fourth at 2-over 866 and South Carolina, with a final-round 290, and Tennessee, with a final-round 288, finished in a tie for fifth at 9-over 873.
Brynn Walker, a two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Radnor who is a freshman at North Carolina, struggled a little in the final round, but the Tar Heels’ Blue team took ninth as the host with a 20-over 884 total. North Carolina Blue did finish two shots ahead of rival Duke, which took 10th with an 886. North Carolina’s White team had a final-round 309 and finished last in the powerhouse 18-team field at 925.
But with Kupcho leading the way from start to finish, Wake Forest made a pretty strong statement to its ACC rivals.
In addition to Kupcho’s spectacular showing, the Demon Deacons also got a final-round 69 from Sierra Sims, a senior from Austin, Texas who finished in a tie for sixth in the individual standings at 3-under 213.
Also for Wake Forest, Antonia Eberhard, a sophomore from Germany, finished in a tie for 28th at 5-over 221, Sierra Brooks, a freshman from Sorrento, Fla. and a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team this summer, finished in a tie for 37th at 223 and junior Erica Herr, a two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Council Rock North, finished in a tie for 54th at 226. Eberhard and Brooks each had a final-round 75 and the Demon Deacons were able to throw out Herr’s 79.
Mathilda Cappeliez, a semifinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club this summer, competed as an individual and finished tied for 64th at 228. The freshman from France sandwiched a pair of 74s around an 80 in the middle round and clearly adds some depth for Wake Forest.
North Carolina was led by Lexi Harkins, a junior from Crystal Lake, Ill. who had a final-round 74 to finish in a tie for 22nd at 4-over 220. The lowest score of the day for the Tar Heels was turned in by Leslie Coots, a senior from Belgium who had a final-round 73 and finished in a tie for 31st at 222.
Walker had a final-round 77 after being one of the Tar Heels’ leaders with respective first- and second-round scores of 73 and 72, but joined Coots in the tie for 31st at 222. North Carolina Blue was able to toss Walker’s 77.
Kelly Whaley, a sophomore from Farmington, Conn., had a final-round 75 and finished in a tie for 37th at 223 and Bryana Nguyen, a junior from Columbia, Md., had her best round of the tournament, a 2-over 74, and finished in a tie for 54th at 220.
North Carolina’s White team was paced by Killian Casson, a sophomore from Greenville, N.C. who had a final-round 75 to finish in a tie for 73rd at 231.
Runnerup Alabama was paced by individual runnerup Lauren Stephenson, a sophomore from Lexington, S.C. who made it three rounds under par with a final-round 69 to finish alone in second at 9-under 207, six shots back of Kupcho.
The Tide also got a top-10 finish from Cheyenne Knight, a sophomore from Aledo, Texas who had a final-round 73 to finish in a four-way tie for ninth at 2-under 214.
Hard-charging Arkansas also had two players in the top 10 with Alana Uriell, a junior from Carlsbad, Calif., carding her third straight 70 to finish third at 6-under 210 and Maria Fassi, a sophomore standout from Mexico, firing a 70 to join Knight in the tie for ninth at 214.
Tennessee had two players in the top 10 with Micheala Williams, a freshman from Athens, Ala, posting a 70 to finish alone in fourth at 5-under 211, and Blakesley Warren, a junior from Chattanooga, Tenn., joining the group tied for ninth at 214 with a sparkling final-round 69.
South Carolina’s Katelyn Dambaugh, a senior from Goose Creek, S.C., also had a final-round 69 to finish alone in fifth place at 4-under 212. Dambaugh, the runnerup to UCLA’s Bronte Law in voting for the Annika Award that goes to the top player in Division I last season, helped the U.S. finish sixth in the Women’s World Golf Championships in Mexico last month.
Duke’s Garbani Singh, a junior from India, fired a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for sixth at 3-under 213. She was joined at that figure by North Carolina State’s India Clyburn, a sophomore from England who matched par in the final round with a 72.
The Wolfpack also had a second player in the top 10 as Clyburn’s teammate, Leonie Bettel, a sophomore from Austria, also had a final-round 72 and was the fourth member of that foursome at 2-under 214 that included Alabama’s Knight, Arkansas’ Fassi and Tennessee’s Warren.