Last July, Allisen Corpuz made history by becoming the first U.S. Women’s Open champion at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. Alongside Corpuz was her caddie, Jay Monahan, who just so happens to also be married to major champion and past USA Curtis Cup competitor Jennifer Kupcho. The USGA recently caught up with Monahan to relive some of his memories of the championship, how his life has changed as a U.S. Open winning caddie and what it would be like to share the final pairing with his wife in the upcoming U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.
Q: What did you know about that week at Pebble that no one else did?
A: Well, funny enough, there really wasn’t anything different that week than our normal routine. The thing for me and Allisen is that every week is very consistent, and out at Pebble, we stuck to our regular game plan. Nothing stood out, except for the fact that Allisen wasn’t feeling 100 percent. We were planning on playing the following week, but Allisen was like, Let's get through this week and if I'm still not feeling well, we'll take next week off. She had been playing well all year, so if we just so happened to have had an off-week, we were ready to take an extra day or two for her to recover.
Q: Looking back, the adage “beware of the sick golfer” feels appropriate here. Given that she wasn’t feeling well, what did you do as a caddie to get her into championship form?
A: In a typical week, we play the practice days and [do] a lot of morning work so she can get back to her hotel and rest. One thing about Allisen is that she loves to rest and read. So instead of packing the bag with meds, I was just making sure she was getting adequate rest, hydration and food. Seventy-two holes is a lot of golf, and during a U.S. Open week there’s so much more that goes on. But I must say it helped being at Pebble Beach, because all week she was like, This is such a cool and special place. No doubt I think that helped take her mind off her sickness.
Q: Despite her illness, she was in contention through 54 holes. She began the final round one shot back of Japan’s Nasa Hataoka. When you're walking to the first tee, what's the mentality? What’s the chat between you and Allisen like?
A: It was just trying to remain as calm and relaxed as I could just so that she wasn't sensing any nerves or anxiousness from my side. The nerves definitely hit more so in the mornings since we were teeing off later in the day. I was doing everything I could to pass the time, like walking around the grounds, going to player dining, even watching the [early television] coverage to try and learn a few things if I could. But, again, for us, the mentality was just to continue to do what Allisen had done all week, which was keep drives in the fairways, find the greens – and generally the middle of greens because the greens are so small at Pebble – attack the gettable holes and keep a level head. Allisen was hitting the ball so well, so it was more about having a good time, enjoying the position we were in and then dreaming about hoisting the trophy at the end of the day.
Q: During that final round, a few things started to go sideways. Your group was put on the clock, Allisen short sided herself on 11 and then nearly had a fried-egg lie in a greenside bunker on the par-3 12th. How did you and Allisen keep such a level head during those pressure-packed situations?
A: I know this sounds like caddie talk, but it goes back to the same thing I mentioned earlier about sticking to our routine. There are some days Allisen and I don't chat very often on the golf course, and since I know negative talk never did anything good for me when I was trying to make it on Tour, I made sure to keep it all positive. And it’s always really impressed me ... Allisen strives to always think and talk positively on the golf course. So we work together well in that fashion. Like in that instance on 11, it was like, Look, we're going to pitch that onto the green to 10 feet or better and you’ll go make the putt because you’ve been making everything … let’s just keep that rolling. And that’s exactly what happened.
Q: Well then, I’m curious about what’s happening as you leave the famous par-3 17th after suffering a bogey and heading to the iconic par-5 closing hole. Even with a three-shot lead, it's obviously a hole where players can make a big number and end a championship chase, especially with all the danger to the left. Were there any conversations heading to the tee and gearing down and avoiding driver?
A: [Laughs] No, there was no conversation there. She had hit driver on 18 every day, and at no point during the week had we talked about hitting less. I want to say she was hitting something like 85 percent of her fairways in general that season. We actually joked that she couldn’t really get into the trouble on the right – the tree and the huge bunker past it. But she's so good with the driver that as a caddie, I was never going to take it out of her hand, especially on Sunday. She didn’t hesitate, and when she didn't hesitate, I knew what we were doing. She felt good about just blasting it out there. When you’re as accurate as she is, you probably should.
Q: When you put the flagstick back in the hole on 18, and have officially caddied for the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open champion, what is that like personally?
A: Well, after she birdied 14 and 15, that was the first time I let my mind wander and thought, She's going to win this thing. But after that thought crossed my mind just one time, I was like, Just don't do anything stupid here, we gotta get this thing to the house. I think putting the flagstick back in was more shock … and not in the sense that I didn't think she could win, but it was just like she had already had a few close calls since we had started working together, and it felt like it was going happen at some point. But for it to happen there at Pebble, I mean, still even talking about it right now, it's crazy to think that that was real.
Q: What's it like in the caddie yard these days? A few more head nods and hat tips I presume?
A: I have to admit, nothing too crazy. The whole group of caddies out on the LPGA is such a fantastic group of people. Everybody is very congratulatory every week when someone gets a win because everyone knows how meaningful it is and how hard it is to accomplish. There were several of the guys and gals who said, “Oh, how are you going to treat yourself?”
I feel like I gained a little respect. This is only my third full year out here, but I think we all really respect each other and what we're trying to do and how hard we're working on a weekly basis. Being able to have that week or two of congratulations from everybody is fun, but I wouldn't say anything's changed too much.
Q: The Monahan/Kupcho household is getting pretty used to winning major championships. I imagine there had to have been some friendly banter between you and Jennifer?
A: Awh, man, we're always going back and forth, whether it's just a casual nine holes when we're home or playing card games, there's always some competition there. We don’t keep a tally of who’s winning more, but honestly Jen was very open and willing to give me advice Saturday and Sunday given her experience winning The Chevron Championship. It mainly centered around what to say and when to say it, if at all. Obviously, super nice of her and helpful for me just to know that I have that advice in my back pocket.
Q: Jennifer unfortunately didn’t make the cut, but did she stick around for the weekend?
A: She did not, unfortunately [laughs]. She was on the fence big time about what do. She ended up leaving for something that had already been planned. We still joke about that today because she was so sad to have missed it.
Q: When you finally reached Jen after the round, what was that like?
A: I don't remember exactly what her text said but I remember there were a lot of capital letters and exclamation points [laughs]. One of her good friends, Sarah Schmelzer, was texting her as many updates as she could, because Jen was on a flight and couldn’t follow the broadcast.
Q: Remind me how you chose to caddie for Allisen over Jen?
A: I wouldn’t say I chose to caddie for Allisen over Jen...it just kind of randomly happened. I had traveled with Jen to Florida for the first two events of the 2022 season (she already had a great caddie) and got a random text from Allisen before that second week. It was her rookie year and her status got her into the event late and she needed a caddie. Lucky for me, one of the caddies she knew already had passed along my name. We did a trial that week and it went really well so she hired me going forward. Jen and I have talked about the possibility of me caddying for her, but for right now, we both think it works really well when I’m on someone else’s bag!
Q: OK, final group of the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster. You and Allisen, and Jen and her caddie in the final pairing. What's happening in that group?
A: People often ask, "What’s it like if we get paired together?” Honestly, I don’t think people would know that Jen and I even know each other. We’ve been paired before on the LPGA, and we chit-chat some. It’s great for me – I get to watch my wife play and also help Allisen do the best she can. But if it were to come down to Sunday at Lancaster, I don’t know how much chatter there would be. At the end of the day, they’re both trying to win, and I have a job to do with Allisen. Deep down I’m rooting for both of them to just blow it out of the water. But it would be very interesting, I’d say.