Three Americans are in the mix after Day 1 of the ISPS Handa World Invitational. Jennifer Kupcho has birded four of her last five holes to shoot a 7-under 66, alongside South Korea’s Chella Choi and Scotland’s Gemma Dryburg. Golf felt “easy” to Emma Talley, who is one shot behind the early leaders, and Sarah Burnham’s “don’t screw it up” mentality proved successful, ending 5 under and two backs.
“I actually walked off the first hole and made 5 and thought I was over 1,” said Kupcho, referring to the par-73 course setup at the Galgorm Castle Golf Club. “I only noticed it when I looked at the scorecard.”
The ISPS Handa World Invitational is hosting two tournaments at the same time – one for the men and one for the women, which compete against each other on the same golf courses and win for the same prize money of 1.175 million US dollars. This tournament format enabled Kupcho to revive her friendship with her old teammate and Irish golfer Paul McBride. “He went to Wake Forest,” said Kupcho, who was in college with McBride. “It’s cool to see different guys that you don’t see every day.”
ISPS Handa World Invitational Rating: LPGA | European Tour
Talley, who started the 2021 LPGA Tour season by missing five cuts in a row, made a run at the Volunteers of America Classic a few weeks ago with her opening round of 65 and T-4. She’s back this week, praising her new sports psychologist, Paul Dewland.
“I’ve actually used a couple of his methods on the last nine holes,” Talley said after her round. “He somehow gave me my confidence back and stop looking at everyone else and just take care of myself.”
Burnham meanwhile made a long putt for birdie at number 17 that freaked her out a little. “I thought to myself, oh my god, I’m under 5. I kind of got to the point where I thought don’t screw it up, and then [on the next hole] I put it in the fairway bunker, ”she said. Burnham barely got her second shot from the bunker. A bad third shot left her 92 yards for a difficult up and down on the 18th par-5. “I miraculously hit it at 5 feet and made the putt to save for par,” she said.
Kupcho is the top American of the three women with a Rolex ranking of No. 27. Both Burnham and Talley are outside the top 200. This is Burnham’s third year on the road. In 2020 she only made two cuts in her 10 tournaments and Talley has struggled to see the success she believes she can achieve. But setbacks have yet to keep these players from working towards their dream – becoming an LPGA winner.
“I just want to go out and play each shot individually and hopefully get a chance to do some putts again,” said Burnham.
“I’ve worked really hard,” said Talley, “not just with my game, but also with my mental game, and I just trusted that everything would work. Hopefully a good few weeks here. “
Kupcho finished second a couple of times, including the 2019 Evian Championship, but she’s still waiting for a win. “It’s super nice to get on the green and trust a putt,” she said. “Hopefully the putts will continue to fall tomorrow.”