“I went to varsity till 2014, and undoubtedly with the intention of doing one thing else after my golf profession. And I believe final yr that turned very actual so far as probably wanting into doing one thing else.
“Once I misplaced LPGA standing final yr, it was the primary time in 5 years that I’ve totally misplaced my standing, since gaining it in 2015. And I believe that basically made it very actual for me so far as: ‘Okay what are the selections that I will make now?'”
Then every thing modified. Ranked 304th on this planet, Popov gained the Ladies’s British Open in August.
“However then I noticed it sit there, and I’m going: ‘Properly, that is what you could have labored for six years. This isn’t a paycheck for one week of taking part in. That is for all of the work you place in because you graduated faculty, and even earlier than then. All of the work that you’ve got put in your entire life, simply to get to that second.'”
“My rookie yr in 2015, I began having plenty of ache and plenty of totally different signs. If I counted all of them up, I would most likely be at like 14 several types of signs, and really debilitating.
“Not having the ability to play, being very fatigued, additionally mentally, form of placing me in a really dangerous spot as a result of I did not really feel as if I may carry out the way in which that I did throughout faculty or earlier than I acquired sick.”
After a prolonged analysis search, Popov was lastly informed she had Lyme illness.
Lyme illness is the commonest illness brought on by ticks within the US, and with the local weather disaster it might develop into much more widespread.
As a result of the illness can typically have an effect on individuals in several methods — Popov says she heard from many alternative athletes who informed her how “horrible” Lyme illness may be — the German, who was born within the US, determined to take her rehabilitation into her personal arms.
“I did all my very own analysis, and sure, I did see some medical doctors, however to me it was all about … I’ve gone by means of a lot remedy and so many surgical procedures in 5 years that I felt like I needed to strategy it a bit bit extra from a pure standpoint, as a result of I knew one other set of antibiotics was not going to do the job.
“So it was actually hours of researching and determining a weight loss program that will work for me, that will make me higher.”
A shock entry
Likelihood performed an enormous half in Popov even competing on the 2020 Ladies’s British Open.
She had caddied for her greatest good friend and fellow golfer, Anne van Dam, at a event after which Popov performed the Marathon Basic, in Toledo, Ohio in early July, ending within the prime 10 which, unknown to her, certified her for the British Open.
“After I completed my spherical, I signed my scorecard, and Anne offers me a name, a FaceTime name, and she or he’s simply yelling into the cellphone, and she or he’s like: ‘You certified for the Open!’ And I used to be like: ‘What?’ It wasn’t even on my radar.
“I hadn’t even thought of that in any respect, and I simply realized, I mentioned: ‘Oh, nice! The highest 10 gamers that aren’t already certified for the Open, have the Marathon Basic to qualify.’ After which I noticed what had simply occurred, and that I had certified, and went by means of all of the steps of signing up.”
A brand new form of strain
Going into the ultimate day of a significant with a lead, Popov says that Sunday morning on the Ladies’s British Open was “most likely essentially the most nervous” she had ever been “on the golf course and off the course.”
“I awakened fairly early, 6:30ish, regardless that I had a 1:45 tee time, and I believe these are essentially the most grueling six hours which you could undergo till you begin your warmup, since you’re simply desirous about what is going on to occur and that entire spherical.
“So I believe it was crucial for me to only say: ‘Hey, regular routine. Go to breakfast.’ I wasn’t capable of eat quite a bit due to the nerves, however form of simply undergo the identical course of that you just all the time undergo.”
She admits that after that first tee shot of the ultimate spherical, Popov settled into her routine and was capable of chill out.
Regardless of coming underneath strain from Thai participant Thidapa Suwannapura, Popov was capable of shoot a three-under par 68 to say an emotional debut main victory and obtain that “life altering second.”
“There are totally different phases that you just undergo the place you notice. The primary one is earlier than you even make that final putt. I knew: ‘It is a complete game-changer for me.’
“In so many respects, however I believe that particularly in terms of my golf recreation and the boldness that I will take out of that week, and who I’m now on the golf course versus who I used to be earlier than. So there is a earlier than and after Sophia, virtually, on the golf course.
“After which the weeks that observe after, it is all of the issues, all of the media requests that are available, all of the congratulatory messages, all of that, you actually have had two to a few weeks to essentially soak it in and simply … I do not know, simply get pleasure from it, as a result of I believe golfers or athletes usually are usually those who simply form of transfer on actually rapidly.
“It is like: ‘Okay, you had success? Nice. No matter. Let’s transfer on.’ And I believe I actually took that point to truly get pleasure from it, after which with every single day that handed, each time I appeared on the trophy, it simply turned extra actual each time I checked out it, and I believe that is only a pure course of.”
Regardless of the highs and lows of her profession, Popov says she all the time knew she was able to doing.
“It was simply whether or not actually simply desirous about whether or not I needed to place myself by means of that grind once more or whether or not it was virtually taking the straightforward method out perhaps by wanting into doing one thing else.”
Conor Powell contributed to this.