When Steven Kupcho and his wife rolled into Aberdeen earlier this week, a flood of pleasant memories came rushing back.
The Colorado golfer is back in the Western Printing Pro-Am tournament at Moccasin Creek Country Club, which runs through Sunday. It’s an event he won two years ago on a course he always seems to play well.
“This place ages beautifully,” Kupcho said. “I want to say I’ve finished in the top five every year I’ve been here. It’s only three years, so it’s nothing like amazing.”
Maybe not, but Kupcho seems to have a feel for the course and it has a way of rewarding him.
“My theory on this golf course is, the guy that’s hitting it the best is going to win here. A fair amount of the Dakota’s Tour events are a lot more open than this,” he said. “You can get away with kind of just bombing a driver and try and get up and down or whatever that is. Not necessarily the case here. Narrower fairways, good green complexes. Bad shots are punished here. That’s not something that we see necessarily every week on this tour. I like it, because I know that generally I’m one of the better iron players on this tour, and so I know that I can compete that way.”
Kupcho, who is an accomplished golfer in his own right, is not even the most famous golfer in his family. His sister, Jennifer, is on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour and won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019.
The fact that he has to take a back seat to her accomplishments is just fine with him.
“It’s opened so many doors for me in the last three years that I don’t think I could ever be like frustrated by it,” he said. “Her and I grew up beating each other up, whether it was strapping on the goalie pads in the basement or on the golf course. We’ve always been competitive. I remember when I was low amateur at the Colorado Open, I was rubbing that in her face and now she’s got a Colorado Open trophy. It’s never ending and I think that’s what makes us both better.”
And no matter what Kupcho goes on to accomplish in the game, it will be hard, if not impossible, to top what his sibling has already done.
“How do I beat what she did?” he asked. “I mean I could win a Masters, but it’s still not the first one.”
Instead, Kupcho will continue to work on his own game in hopes of moving up the ranks.
He has learned through the years that all it takes is a few good rounds to erase the frustrations of a bad one.
A few years ago, Kupcho rallied from nine shots back to win a tourney in Iowa. He shot a 75 opening round before putting together blistering rounds of 63 and 62 and eventually prevailed in a playoff.
“I felt like I was putting with a 2 X 4 the first round of that tournament,” he recalled. “The next day I made everything, the next day made everything. Hit it great all three days and was lucky enough to get in a playoff and have a chance to win.”
A big key to golf, or any sport for that matter, is mental toughness. While golfers can practice technique with visible success, sharpening that mental component can be a bit more challenging.
“Positivity is really the most important thing. One of the biggest things, that my coach and I have worked on is when you’re really down and feel like things aren’t going your way, just sitting down and taking a moment and listing things that you’re grateful for, not even in golf, just in life,” he said. “That gets rid of those bad chemicals that are flowing through your brain and gets the good chemicals flowing through your brain. It’s crazy how that translates to golf.”
Kupcho has shown he knows that it takes to have success at the Pro-Am and will attempt to employ that strategy again this weekend.
“I always think the first two rounds you’re just trying to get yourself into contention” he said. “Ideally, you’re playing in the final group on Sunday. If not, you’re chasing and that’s fine, too. I’ve come from behind before.”
Kupcho will need to rally a bit again after firing a 73 on Friday. He is currently tied for 27th, although only a few strokes out of the top 10.
Regardless of what happens, Kupcho is happy to be back in the Hub City, playing in one of his favorite events of the year. When his schedule was put together for the season, he made sure the Western Printing Pro-Am was going to be a part of it.
“Thanks to everyone that’s a part of it here in Aberdeen and at Moccasin Creek,” Kupcho said. “Honestly, it’s the best deal in mini-tour golf. The purse is amazing, the way they treat us is amazing. There isn’t a better tournament. That’s the God’s honest truth. It’s that good.”
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