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November 19, 2019
THE MODERATOR: All right, everyone. We're here with three of our 2019 LPGA Tour rookies, Cheyenne Knight, Kristen Gillman, and Jennifer Kupcho. Cheyenne won the Volunteers of America Classic; Kristen has earned four Top 10s, including a tie for sixth at the ANA Inspiration; and Jennifer earned three Top 10s, including a tie for second at the Evian Championship.
Cheyenne, you're sitting right here next to me so I'll start with you. Your win in Texas was truly one of the driving moments of your rookie season. You went from potentially booking a ticket back to Q Series to booking a to Asia.
How surreal was that week for you in Texas, doing it so close to home and all the connections to your family there?
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Yeah, it was great. That tournament I had really nothing to lose. I needed a Top 5 or better to secure my card. Yeah, it was a really hard year on the LPGA. A lot of learning things and mentally it was a tough one.
But I felt really comfortable close to home with all my family being there. I think it was just the mindset that I had. I didn't really worry about making the cut. You just really can't worry about the cut out on the LPGA. You got to focus on trying to be in contention.
So I think that mindset I'm going to take like going forward, but it was great. I mean, it was life changing. They always say it takes one week, so it was pretty special.
THE MODERATOR: Living proof of that.
Kristen, you're going to finish second in the Rookie of the Year standings. Come into this week 41st on the Money List. It's been a great, steady season for you.
What have you learned most during the year both about the competition out here on the LPGA Tour and about yourself as a player and an athlete?
KRISTEN GILLMAN: Yeah, I think some of the things I've learned most out here is just you kind of can't focus too much on golf because then it's going to be miserable out here and just always worrying about your score and your place and all that.
And so I've kind of just learned to just go out there and have fun. That's usually whenever you play best, like Cheyenne was saying, when you're relaxed and like you don't try to analyze everything.
And just about the competition. I played in I think six or seven professional events before I turned pro, so I kind of knew what to expect coming in. I mean, everyone out here is a good player, so it's not like college golf where you can just make pars and it'd be good enough. Out here you got to make birdies, so that's what I've learned.
THE MODERATOR: Jennifer, you took a big risk when you deferred. Certainly on the amateur side it paid off. Came in late; had to fight. Your finish at Evian really helped get you up into Asia and into this event.
Do you think it was worth it to take that risk and do the deferral and come in a little later?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I actually have talked to a bunch of people that went through Q Series this year, overanalyzing it. I think going back I would probably rethink it a little bit harder. Obviously it turned out okay so I'm thankful for that, but it definitely was really stressful and pretty hard.
THE MODERATOR: Looking back to the time since you joined the tour, making your debut at the U.S. Women's Open, what have been some of the highlights for you looking back at your rookie year?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Probably the friends that I've made going out there and playing with everyone and meeting everyone. Going over to Europe and Asia you definitely become better friends with everyone because you're all stuck there together.
So that's definitely been a lot of the fun, and that's probably the best part about it.
THE MODERATOR: And Cheyenne, before I open it up for questions, I'm going to ask you the same question I asked Kristen. What have you learned about yourself as an athlete and what have you learned about the competition level out here that you just don't know until you get out to the LPGA Tour?
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Yeah, I think like for me, I compared myself too much to like the other players. Like I need to hit it further. I need to do this better, do that better.
I just kind of like lost sight of how I play golf. I may not hit it that far, but I'm going to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. I mean, that's like that's how I play golf. I think that was like the biggest thing. I mean, you just can't try to be anyone else.
Yeah, it's been, I mean, just a good learning experience because I want to play on tour for a few years - like a long time I guess, more than a few years.
But, yeah, I think everyone -- and like I would say like one thing that was like really crucial to me was I needed to like step out of my comfort zone and meet people.
I mean, like I would say like a lot of the girls aren't going to come up to you if you're a rookie and be like, Hey, do you need anything? But I think just like going out of my comfort zone and playing with people I didn't know and just asking questions, like you got to step, yeah, out of your comfort zone and ask.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for any questions.
Q. Jennifer, following on what you are talking about, in the few months you've been out here, is there anything that's surprised you or is different about the tour that you didn't know about?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I wouldn't say it's surprising because obviously we know that we play so much golf and it's so much time, but I think it definitely took a wear on my body, and that was a biggest adjustment. I wouldn't say it was really a surprise.
Q. I've actually got a couple. I want to start with Cheyenne. Cheyenne, you mentioned winning is life changing. We hear that all the time. With a few months of hindsight, can you quantify that? What has actually changed?
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Yeah, like I was I think around 120 on the Money List, like 118, and winning I was literally about to go back to Q-School. Winning got me into two Asia events and getting into CME and two-year exemption into all the majors.
I mean, it is life changing. It opened like a lot of doors for me. And I think like how hard my rookie year was. Like so many like downs, and then that, kind of the light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought -- I mean, it's everyone's dream to win an LPGA event.
But for me, like to happen like my rookie year when everything was like -- I was like, I don't think I can do this anymore was -- I mean, it's all about perspective. I mean, at the edged of the day it's a game that we a play and we all want to do well.
It shouldn't like rock you like emotionally. So, I mean, a lot of girls talk about like depression or anxiety and stuff. You're out here and it's your livelihood, but I kind of had to take a step back and be like, at the end of the day, it's just a game. I think that's why it's helped me so much.
Q. And to all three of you, you all came from some big-time college programs. When you got out here, what was the one thing that was provided for you at college that you were like, Oh, wait I've got to do this myself now?
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Like provided at college? Oh. I mean, I think it's just like you're by yourself. Like in college you all rode in the van to the airport, you got your ticket from your coach, you got snacks, you went to dinner, you went to the golf course, you played a practice round.
I think like the biggest thing is a caddie. I don't know. You got to push your push cart and a caddie is a big thing, because that's been -- I think that really hard, to find a good caddie.
KRISTEN GILLMAN: Yeah, I think some of the difference is -- I mean, you already know what like the difference is going to college and then coming here. I think it's just having everything paid for, and then you have to come out here and you're like, Oh, I have to stay in a hotel and that's going to cost me $1000 this week. That's great.
So I think it's just small things like that, and what she said, having a caddie. Because it's really nice when you have a good caddie, but then if you have someone who like -- I don't know. At the beginning of the year I was struggling trying to find some caddies, so it's just sometimes I'm like, Okay, I would rather just have my pushcart and be out here pushing. I think that's the biggest difference is just financially.
JENNIFER KUPCHO: And I think for me was a support system. I mean, you are out here on your own so you need to be able to call people and ask, Hey, can you help me with this, help me with that?
Renting cars, like never rented a car in my life. Show up, try to rent a car. So it's all just learning experiences.
Q. Kristen, you made me think of the question, but I open it to anyone who wants to answer. Did you have more fun on the LPGA when you are playing as an amateur than you did as a rookie?
KRISTEN GILLMAN: I don't think so. I think I had more fun as a rookie. I think it's more just since I know some of the girls. Sometimes when I was playing out here as an amateur I just felt very alone and by myself just because I didn't know anyone out here. It wasn't like I could just see one of my friends just on the putting green, on the range, and ask them, Hey, do you want to go to dinner or just ask them any random question.
When I was out here as an amateur I wasn't able to do that, but now I'm starting to get to know everyone, so now I think it's been more fun playing as a professional.
Q. I was just curious if anyone looked at you as an amateur like they were once an amateur when you get out here, that they don't really care about you anymore because they're trying to beat you.
KRISTEN GILLMAN: Yeah, I mean, everyone out here is nice, but we also all want to beat each other. I don't think it really matters. I'm sure it definitely helps if you're an amateur probably, but, I mean, no matter what it's still competition, so everyone wants to go out there and play the best they can.
Q. I'm sure all of you got advice coming into your rookie season. Probably some good advice and unsolicited advice. Is there something that stuck with you through your rookie season, a piece of advice, a little golden nugget that stuck with you? And then also, what advice would you give the incoming rookies?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: The big advice I got was don't overwork yourself and to relax, because I'm pretty hard on myself a lot. I think I've definitely changed throughout the year. I started out not taking that advice and now I've taken it.
So definitely makes life a lot more enjoyable before and after golf.
THE MODERATOR: Either one of you want to chime in on that?
KRISTEN GILLMAN: I'll go with the advice you give to rookies. I feel like the advice I'd give is just don't overwork yourself because it's a long season. Just go out there and try to have fun, because, I mean, coming in as a rookie you probably don't have that good of status or whatever, so you won't get into all the beginning tournaments.
But go out there and just try to -- whenever you have an opportunity, just try take as much of it as you can and just go out there and play well. It'll make things easier as the season goes own.
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Yeah, because starting year I had conditional status, so I had to like Monday qualify in the beginning. And I would say -- I mean, because Q-Series, how it works is you got to get top 10 to really have a full card.
So I would say like when I reached that I like told myself I need to play every week because I want to keep my card. I would say like -- I did not take a week off. I didn't get into Evian, but went overseas and I qualified for the British. Did a qualifier, so like played next week.
I would say for girls that don't have -- that have conditional status, you can take a week off. I was so tired, like so fatigued because I was in the mindset that I had to play. But when you're doing that and missing cuts, like it's more beneficial to go home for a week, reset, just like relax instead of just keep trying really.
Q. Two questions. One is for everyone. What's the big thing you've splurged on this year since you're making money now, and lots of it to people like me?
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: A TrackMan.
KRISTEN GILLMAN: Yeah. I think we all bought a TrackMan.
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Yeah.
Q. Oh, wow. That's kind of boring. Then Jennifer, I heard you saying this morning that you blacked out on the 18th from NY. You don't really remember much from it. What do you remember from that final round, and have you ever blacked out like that before on a big event?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I definitely blacked out during my Nationals win in 2018 as well, but I don't really remember that much. Obviously I remember having the migraine and how miserable it was, but the rest is pretty much blacked out besides that.
That sounds really bad, but that's -- yeah, like watching it back on TV it's like funny to remember what I was thinking, but if I just try and think about something like I'm not going to remember it.
Q. Why do you think that is? Because you were in the zone, or what?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I think I was so focused, and through the migraine, I was trying to get rid of that, so I was not really focusing on golf. And then I think I was just so nervous in everything that was going on that I just chose to not think about it.
Q. For all three of you, in the history of this event you had to be in the Top 5 or the Top 9 to have a crack at the big payday. Now everybody has a shot. I'm wondering what you guys think of that, given you guys are outside of that Top 9, Top 10 that were needed in previous years, that everybody has a shot for the big money?
KRISTEN GILLMAN: I mean, I guess I like that they changed that. I mean, I think you can see positives to both sides. I think it's nice to be able to reward everyone who has like -- like what Cheyenne was saying. She didn't get into the beginning tournaments, so it was almost impossible for her to be in the Top 9 or 10 to get the big money. It's nice to be able to reward everyone from like whoever started at different levels at the beginning of the season. Then you come here and have a chance to win the big money.
So, I mean, I'm excited to be able to play for this big of a purse with only 60 people. It'll be fun.
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Yeah, I think it's like also really competitive for everyone. Like it's different between like the Top 3. You're like, I just need to beat her and her. But I think everyone has a shot, so I think like it's fair game for everyone, too.
THE MODERATOR: Anything further?
Q. Sorry about this, Jennifer. I want to come back to this for a second. When you're saying you kind of zoned out, blacked out, do you have any recollection of shots at tournaments you've won?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Zoned out is definitely better, by the way.
Q. No one is listening to this, are they? It's okay. Go ahead.
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Not really.
Q. Like NCAAs or anything in high school, juniors, big events? Can you think back to great shots you've hit or do you just zone out on everything?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Actually I do remember at Nationals in 2018. I hit this hybrid into the 18th green and it was -- that was my second shot so I had a putt for eagle. I remember that shot.
Q. Okay, that's one. (Laughter.)
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Okay, let me think.
Q. Did you remember hitting like this hard draw hybrid over the pond on 15 at Augusta, or did you have to watch TV to remember it?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I mean, I can remember it, but I don't remember what was going through my head unless it's like visual in front of me. Like I remember standing over the shot and saying -- like I had agreed with my caddie I was going to go at the right greenside bunker. Like just pump it and probably hit the grandstand. We agreed on that, and then I was over the ball and I was like, Nah, I'm just going to just draw it.
Like I remember that.
Q. Do you think you're more likely to remember bad shots or good ones?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Bad shots for sure.
Q. Why is that?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Because I feel like I hit more good shots versus bad shots, and bad shots are what are the turning point in your round. Like I guess you let them get to you more, but I don't know, they're just like the turning points so I always remember them.
Q. If I were to ask you the greatest shot you've ever hit in your life, would you have any chance of answering that?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Yes. The draw around the tree on 15.
Q. Jennifer, now today do you still have people come up and say something about Augusta?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Yeah, actually. I mean, just even today I was walking off the driving range and there were people standing there with flags for me to sign and said congrats and everything.
So all the time, yes.
THE MODERATOR: Before we wrap up I'm going to ask you the same questions I ask everybody. As Chris mentioned, you all three are in the running for $1.5 million. Yes, you want to buy something for your mom, do something good with the money.
What's a splurge? Not a TrackMan. You guys already have the TrackMan now. Some sort of splurge, something fun. What would you want to get? Big or as little as you want.
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Well, I'm already planning on buying a car after this tournament so that's not like a thing. I guess the next thing would be a place of my own.
KRISTEN GILLMAN: I was going to say the same thing. I feel like probably buy a house or something to live in that's not my parents' house.
THE MODERATOR: You don't need a car either.
KRISTEN GILLMAN: I know. I wanted to buy a car but then I just won one so I don't really need that.
THE MODERATOR: Anything for you?
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Yeah. Maybe a house. And a dog. Even though I already have three dogs. But another dog maybe.
Q. What kind of dogs do you have?
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Two Briards and a Yorkie. Yeah, or some jewelry. Like a little ring or bracelet or something.
THE MODERATOR: Something fun. We always like that. A little blue box maybe. Thank you ladies so much. Hope you enjoyed your season. See you next year.
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Thank you.
CHEYENNE KNIGHT: Thank you.
KRISTEN GILLMAN: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports