Sophia Popov caddies for boyfriend, Maximilian Mehles, as he earns medalist honors at U.S. Open qualifying

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Major champ Sophia Popov played a practice round from around 7,400 yards at Andalusia Country Club in La Quinta, California, to prepare for her latest caddying gig for boyfriend Maximilian Mehles. She hit 5-iron and 3-iron into most holes, but getting a better idea of the lines off the tee proved valuable, she thought.

In the end, of course, Mehles had to hit the shots. And he hit two fewer than anyone else in the field to medal at U.S. Open qualifying. The Kentucky grad posted a flawless 6-under 66 with four birdies on his last five holes.

“I’m killing it,” joked Popov in regard to her legendary caddying resume. “I’m almost thinking about switching careers right now.”

Popov famously caddied for good friend Anne van Dam shortly before winning the 2020 AIG Women’s British Open while not a member of the LPGA. Mehles was on her bag that week at Royal Troon.

The couple spent most of Tuesday morning trying to figure out what they might do for sectional qualifying, which takes place on Monday, May 23, the week of the LPGA Bank of Hope Match Play event. Popov will need a good finish in next week’s Cognizant Founders Cup to play her way into the field. She advanced to the final match in 2021. With the match-play event starting on Wednesday, it would be tough to caddie in a 36-hole qualifier during such a grueling week ahead of a major. But then again, she’d love nothing more than to see Mehles achieve a dream of competing in the U.S. Open.

“For me, it’s going to be a really hard decision,” she said.

Mehles put his own competitive golf career on hold this year, choosing instead to caddie for Popov full time.

“I think he was playing super relaxed,” said Popov. “Sometimes at a Monday qualifier, you push yourself a little bit too hard. He kind of let all the birdies come to him rather than forcing the issue.”

Popov picked up the bag after a tough stretch on tour and noticed the casual way her beau went about his business. She also marveled at his wedge game, which sparkled despite little practice.

There’s always something to be learned from good golf, and Popov will feed off of Mehles’ good vibes heading into an important stretch. The 29-year-old USC grad said she knows that what’s off in her game is physical rather than mental, and she’s poised for everything to soon click. In the meantime, it’s been helpful to have her partner by her side.

“It’s always easy to vibe well with your caddie when you’re playing well,” she said. “But it’s when you’re in a little bit of a hole and trying to figure out your golf game, it’s important to have someone on the bag you really trust.”