Meditation an important fitness element for Popov as fourth straight Final Stage nears
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — When it comes to Stage III of LPGA Qualifying School, Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) is no stranger to the Hills and Jones Courses of LPGA International.
2017 will mark the fourth straight year Popov has competed at the Final Stage, so she knows each track like the back of her hand.
“This is not my first rodeo,” said Popov. “I have been very calm these past couple weeks because I have been playing very good golf all season and feel like I am on the right path.”
The former four-time All-American at the University of Southern California earned six top 10 finishes on the Symetra Tour this season and finished 14th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with $51,822. Popov’s best finish came in June at the Tullymore Classic in Canadian Lakes, Mich., where she tied for second. Overall, the German made the cut in 18 of the 20 events she played.
Even with the success, though, it wasn’t an easy road to get here. Popov has dealt with chronic lower abdominal and stomach issues for the better part of two years. It prevents her from enjoying anything acidic, including chocolate.
“My biggest hurdle has been my health,” Popov said. “I have to keep up a very strict diet and fitness regimen. With all the traveling, it has been exhausting and very painful.”
There is one unique aspect of her exercise habits that has become a staple in the routine.
“I have had to look into treatment options,” said the 2013 USC National Championship team member. “That has included meditation and breathing techniques to handle the pain.”
In addition to the meditative exercises, there is several other activities Popov enjoys to keep her mind sharp when she is away from the game. That includes spending time in Germany at a wedding for a close friend earlier this month.
“Everyone who knows me knows I don’t spend all day on the golf course,” Popov said. “I love to be out there and play, but I also love to play other sports, read and hang out with friends.”
Just like many who went through the grind of the Symetra Tour season, following the Symetra Tour Championship, Popov took a few weeks off to give herself a mental and physical break.
Then it was back to the drawing board.
“I started back up working with my physical trainer and coach in Germany. I try to stay fit and healthy, making minor adjustments to my game,” said Popov. “For me, it is all about maintaining my swing rhythm to make sure I can perform under pressure.”
Whether it’s the meditation and fitness, working on the swing or short game, Popov is looking to make her fourth time at the Final Stage a charm. It’s all the same pieces to development, just geared toward an amplified tournament.
However, through all the preparation, one component to her game has stood out as more necessary to entertain because when push comes to shove, that’s what separates an invite to the LPGA from Symetra Tour status.
“My level of preparation stays the same, except the fact that I have more time to prepare. I have more time to perfect each part of my game,” Popov said. “I also spend more time on the putting green because that is ultimately where LPGA cards will be determined.”