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TOLEDO, Ohio – The last time Sophia Popov was at Inverness, she was carrying the bag of best friend Anne van Dam at the 2020 LPGA Drive On event. She thought about how the course would set up for a Solheim Cup, but only because she thought van Dam would be part of the team.
Three weeks later, of course, Popov would go on to shock the golf world by winning the AIG Women’s British Open. Now one of the highest-ranked players on the European team, Popov is positively beaming about playing in her first Solheim Cup, though she is bummed that van Dam isn’t here to share the experience with her.
Golf can be such an unpredictable game.
“I’m standing here and I’m playing with all these girls,” said Popov, “but I really feel like I belong and I feel like I’m a solid part of this team. I think that’s just incredible what can happen in one year, and it’s just very, very special for me.”
Six years ago, when the Solheim Cup was being staged in Germany, Popov was back home working as a commentator. She woke up at 5 a.m. every morning, eager to get to work.
In 2014, she’d been hospitalized for two weeks with severe stomach problems that went undiagnosed for three years. By the time the Solheim rolled around, Popov was 20 pounds lighter than the year before and feeling rotten. She was later diagnosed with Lyme disease.
“I think for me, honestly, commentating was this one bright thing,” she said.
Being on the other side of the microphone made her want to compete in the Solheim Cup even more. She comes into this week ranked 30th in the world. In May, Popov advanced to the final match of the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play hosted by Shadow Creek, eventually losing to Ally Ewing.
The outgoing and energetic player looks forward to interacting with a predominately American crowd, though she isn’t quite sure what that will entail exactly. She’s just ready to get started.
“I think that’s why I’m also out there enjoying it that much more,” said Popov. “There were plenty of moments when I didn’t think I’d be playing golf anymore.”