This year’s first LPGA major-winner faces a daunting decision

lydia ko

Gone is the leap into Poppie's Pond. Jennifer Kupcho and her team made that final plunge last year before the Chevron Championship moved.

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To jump, or not to jump? That is the question this week. It’s Chevron Championship week, the first major of the LPGA Tour season, and there’s 35 years of tradition involved.

For the last three decades there has been no hesitation to the opportunity. Champions of the Chevron have grabbed their caddie and family and bounded into Poppie’s Pond at Mission Hills Country Club, not a care in the world. Why be bothered with staying dry when you’ve just won a major championship. And anyway, when you got out the tournament staff were there with a lovely white robe for comfort. 

This year, things have changed. The Chevron has moved halfway across the country to Houston and The Club at Carlton Woods. It’s a very different golf course but it does have one important similarity: the 18th hole is a par-5 and features a water hazard just off the green. So naturally, players have been asked to consider what they’ll do if they win the tournament Sunday. Will they jump, and keep the tradition alive? 

The decision is not so simple. 

Even though the course is on the northwest side of Houston, this is the bayou, folks. Low, low country. There are different animals here than there are in the California desert. Pond maintenance is just different. Amy Rogers from the Golf Channel is on the chase for us. Rogers tweeted out a couple photos of the new setup near the 18th hole, one of them including a look at “gator netting” that has been put in place to control the area. 

What kind of netting? Gator netting. As in the kind that keeps gators out. Are there gators in that pond? Who knows. But we now know there’s gator netting in there. Which is maybe all you need to hear. 

Defending champion Jennifer Kupcho was asked about what she might do if she wins again. A special platform has been put in place to offer the option of jumping if players would like. But Kupcho is very much undecided.

“I guess we’ll see what comes down to it,” she said. “I’m not really sure. I think there might be snakes in the water here, so might be a little interesting.”

Nelly Korda was asked the same question. Would you jump?

“Hopefully. We’ll see,” she said, covering her bases. “But yes, I would.”

Lydia Ko showed some reservation. 

“Are you meant to jump?” Ko asked. It’s a fair question. Last year’s pond was so welcoming, maintained with that backyard-pool-like blue. Nothing was going to crawl up your leg from the depths. This week’s pond is a much more natural hazard, Ko pointed out before acknowledging that this dilemma is just a good problem to have. To jump or not to jump is an honor bestowed upon one player. To carry on the tradition or not, well, it’s completely up to them.

“It’s good worries,” she said.  “I feel like people would jump in it because that is a tradition of this championship, and Chevron made that possible for us.”

Tune back in Sunday night to find out. (Unless you’re an alligator.)

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine, currently working on a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews. You can read about those travels here and catch his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:

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