The Need FORE! Speed
by John Pitarresi ’70
“That’s the best and worst thing about me,” she says. “I’m a supercompetitive person, and golf really does it for me.” Put those two things together and it’s not surprising that Cupp, Hamilton’s golf coach and a former Continentals standout athlete herself, was led to Speedgolf, a demanding discipline that combines running and golf, with the score being a combination of what you shoot and your elapsed time.
The world of Speedgolf is relatively small but very competitive and widespread, and Cupp and her husband, Wes, are among the very best in it. Wes is ranked No. 2 among men, and Lauren No. 3 among women. She was runner-up at the World Championships in 2016 and won the U.S. Open tournament last year. She and Wes played in the New Zealand Championships in February, with Lauren finishing second.
You realize you don’t need to overthink every shot and that long pre-shot routines aren’t necessary. You don’t carry many clubs, so you learn to hit them different distances, high shots, low shots. You adapt to the situation.
Lauren’s best score is 73 strokes and 52 minutes for a 125. That’s less than three minutes a hole. A typical golf course is four or more miles in length. “But you don’t always hit the ball straight!” she adds, and she’s had to run as many as seven miles during a round, depending on the distances between tee boxes.
Cupp is in shape for it … or because of it. She runs or gets in a round of Speedgolf every day. “It certainly is ideal for those who love the game but have a busy lifestyle,” she says. “Even with coaching and a busy family life, I can still get my workout and 18 holes of golf in under an hour.”
Club selection depends on the course. Typically seven or fewer clubs are used, but Cupp always carries a driver, putter, and some kind of wedge, plus a long iron and short iron. She sees the discipline as something that can make any golfer better at what she now sometimes refers to as “slow golf.”
When: Saturday, October 13
Where: Rome Country Club, Rome, N.Y.
Defending Champions: Mack McLain and Lauren Cupp
“The Speedgolf mentality of ‘hit, run, repeat’ has showed me that you don’t always have to try to hit the perfect shot to score well,” she says. “You realize you don’t need to overthink every shot and that long pre-shot routines aren’t necessary. You don’t carry many clubs, so you learn to hit them different distances, high shots, low shots. You adapt to the situation.”
Plus, you obviously have to be physically fit, certainly a benefit to any player over a long tournament weekend. She credits Speedgolf with helping her become a “slow golf” champion. She won the prestigious New York State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Tournament last year after finishing in the top 10 five times and second twice.
Cupp believes that the lessons learned in Speedgolf also make her a better coach. Her hyper-enthusiastic congenial nature and positive outlook don’t hurt either. She recently completed her first season leading Hamilton’s golf program after serving as an assistant and associate coach. Her inaugural campaign produced some standout results and All-NESCAC designations for Joe Tigani ’18 and Bobby Osborn ’20.
“The goal for both the men’s and women’s teams is to make the NCAA tournament, and I think it is very attainable,” she says. “Golf in NESCAC is phenomenal. You need to recruit a few good players each year, players who are good fits for your style of coaching. You can build a powerhouse in a hurry, which is what I hope to do.”
Cupp comes from an athletic family. Her sister Emily will be a senior at Hamilton in the fall and is on the track team. Sister Katie graduated from Hamilton in 2015 and ran track and played on the Continentals’ first varsity women’s golf team. Her brothers and her parents also were outstanding athletes and accomplished golfers. Cupp excelled in volleyball and as a record-setting triple jumper on the track team. There was no women’s golf program when she came to the Hill so she helped start a club team, which evolved into the current varsity program.
It’s hardly surprising that Cupp married into a golf family. She and Wes own Rome Country Club, formerly run by Wes’ parents, and are pretty much immersed in the game while taking care of their children, Leslie, 4, and Teddy, 1.
Speedy or slow, what does Cupp think makes a good golfer? “You certainly have to have the right head for it,” she says. “You have to have the ability to leave bad shots in the past and move on to the next shot. That’s really a learned skill. It doesn’t come naturally to people. You have to be patient. You also have to put the work in. It takes a long time to be proficient.”
Cupp talks to her players about the mental aspects of the game — course management, making the lowest possible score from where you are rather than from the tee box, not overthinking. Her coaching philosophy is based on providing a positive experience. “We talk a lot about team, respect, and commitment,” she says. “By trying to make them better people, I’m setting up the team to be successful. We’re trying to get better every day. We talk about what you need to work on to get better, not what you want to work on.”
Cupp’s coaching will get a boost when Hamilton’s new practice facility soon opens. (A practice green will need an additional season of growing before it becomes operational.) “It will be phenomenal,” says Cupp, who will welcome nearly a dozen new players this fall. “It will be an absolute game changer for us in terms of being able to practice on campus.”
The new facility will also help attract prospective student golfers to campus. “I love the recruiting aspect,” Cupp says. “It makes me proud to be here. You see how many people want to be part of this community. This is an absolute dream job for me. I love working with the student-athletes, both on the team and in class.”
John Pitarresi is a former sportswriter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch.