Popov’s journey to becoming Women’s British Open champion

December 23, 2020
Sophia Popov
Sophia Popov

In an interview with Shane O'Donoghue for CNN’s Living Golf, Sophia Popov reflects on how she went from contemplating leaving the sport to reaching the top of the golfing world.

Popov tells CNN making the cut once in eight LPGA events in 2019 made her question the direction of her career and explains to O'Donoghue it’s a common scenario for her fellow golfers in the women’s game.

However, following a surprise entry at the 2020 Women's British Open, Popov — ranked 304th in the world at the time — won the tournament in August.

Alongside a $675,000 win, Popov tells CNN how the victory ultimately vindicated her perseverance and has since reinvigorated her career.

Popov on how close she came to leaving golf:

"When I lost LPGA status last year, it was the first time in five years that I've fully lost my status, since gaining it in 2015. And I think that really made it very real for me as far as: 'Okay what are the decisions that I'm going to make now?'"

Popov on how common the scenario is in the women’s game:

“A lot of people, they only hear the stories of the best players in the world and a lot of times it’s on the men’s side, and these guys make so much money that it puts everything a little bit out of perspective. There are weeks where you think: ‘How long can I do this? I know I could go and take another job and have a consistent pay check and be making more money than I am right now. So, is it worth it?’. Where you know you're so close, and you know you're capable of it, but you just haven't had that breakthrough moment.”

Popov on her win at the Women’s British Open:

“There are different stages that you go through where you realize. The first one is before you even make that last putt. I knew: 'This is a total game-changer for me.' In so many respects, but I think that especially when it comes to my golf game and the confidence that I'm going to take out of that week, and who I am now on the golf course versus who I was before. So, there's a before and after Sophia, almost, on the golf course.”

Popov on the importance of reflecting on such career highs:

"You really have had two to three weeks to really soak it in and just ... I don't know, just enjoy it, because I think golfers or athletes in general tend to be people that just kind of move on really quickly... It's like: 'Okay, you had success? Great. Whatever. Let's move on.' And I think I really took that time to actually enjoy it, and then with every day that passed, every time I looked at the trophy, it just became more real every time I looked at it, and I think that's just a natural process."

Popov on the prize money she received for her win:

"That's the biggest check I've ever gotten at a tournament. When it hit the bank account, at first, I'm thinking: 'Gosh, illegal activity?' What's going on? This can't be right,'. But then I saw it sit there, and I go: 'Well, this is what you have worked for six years. This is not a pay check for one week of playing. This is for all the work you put in since you graduated college, and even before then. All the work that you've put in your whole life, just to get to that moment.’" — CNN Living Golf

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