AUGUSTA, Ga. – Furman’s Haylee Harford was on the second hole of her practice round Friday morning at Augusta National when her dad, Kevin, said to her, “I think you should take the local caddie.”
Kevin Harford caddied for his daughter in the opening two rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Champions Retreat Golf Club. But with Haylee still in contention, at 1 over and in a share of 11th as the tournament shifts to intricate Augusta National, Kevin knew he needed to hand over the reins to someone more experienced. Haylee agreed.
“[The local caddies] know so much information that we couldn’t possibly take enough notes on,” Harford said. “We got along well. I think I can do some great things out there with him.”
While 11 of the 30 players who made the cut started the tournament with an Augusta National caddie, the other 19 players faced tough decisions. Do they stick with their dad or coach or even boyfriend, the people who know their games and personalities the best? Or do they switch to a local caddie, the people who are most familiar with this complex Alister Mackenzie masterpiece and its tricky greens?
Surprisingly, just two players had decided to switch to a local caddie as of Friday afternoon: Harford and the tournament’s leader, Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho.
Kupcho, who leads Arkansas’ Maria Fassi by a shot at 5 under, hadn’t yet told her dad, Michael, that he was fired when she finished her practice round. But when she broke the news to him, he understood.
“I just want her to have the best chance to win,” Michael Kupcho said.
Jennifer Kupcho actually was reunited with the same caddie, Brian Murphy, who carried her bag two years ago when she played Augusta National with her Wake Forest teammates. Murphy’s valuable course knowledge was evident throughout Friday’s round.
Full-field scores from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur
“It’s just simple things, like on No. 9, I go, ‘What’s the plus-minus?’ He goes, ‘Plus 7 (yards) to the front, plus 9 to the middle, plus 11 to the back.’ I’m not going to write all that information down,” Kupcho said. “And just all the putts, I would read it one way and he’s like, ‘No, it’s definitely going the other way.’ Hit the putt, he’s right.”
Of course, then there are players who couldn’t break up a good thing. Fassi and Arizona State’s Olivia Mehaffey are among those who will keep their instructors on the bag Saturday. Florida State’s Beatrice Wallin will continue to have her older brother Rickard as her caddie. Austria’s Emma Spitz couldn’t stand to fire her boyfriend, Felix Schrott.
“We work so well together and it’s also a treat for him,” Spitz said. “We’re just going to have fun tomorrow.”
Florida’s Marta Perez, Florida State’s Amanda Doherty and UCLA commit Zoe Campos will all keep their dads on the bag.
“We did talk about it,” said Perez, who has been coached by her father, Jose, her whole career. “He told me it’s up to me. If I think it’s good, then he doesn’t mind. But I want him to. It will be special. We’ve been together forever and it’s only right.”
Then there are the two players who have yet to decide: Texas’ Kaitlyn Papp and Florida’s Sierra Brooks, two players who are tied for third and just two shots off the lead.
“I would love to be on the bag, caddying for my daughter in this inaugural event and have a chance to win,” said Brooks’ dad, Brent, who is also Sierra’s swing coach. “It would be phenomenal. But there’s value to having someone who’s been on these greens for 10 years. It equates to finding lines that are probably going to produce two fewer strokes a side. … I’ll support whatever she decides.”
Brooks said she’ll decide during lunch what to do. Papp hopes to quickly make a decision, as well. Both, though, are leaning toward sharing Saturday’s memorable experience with their dads.
“I really do want him on the bag, especially for this event and the last round here,” Brooks said.
Said Papp: “I just want to keep my options open and just think about what’s best for me, but honestly, I feel like it would be a really cool experience for him to be on the bag since he’s been with me the whole journey of golf.”