WINTER HAVEN, Fla.— th annual Florida’s Natural Charity Classic.
Two weeks ago today, her dad Fred Popson passed away of a heart attack. He was 72 years old.
“He had a stroke toward the end of my senior year in college and never quite recovered,” said Popson, who graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2013. “It’s not like he had anything where he only had so long to live, was pretty sudden and that part has been tough.”
Fred is the one who introduced Popson to the game of golf. He was a member at West Orange Country Club in Winter Garden, Fla. for more than 40 years and the first time she ventured to the course with him was at the age of seven.
“He gave me one club and said, ‘You learn how to hit this one and then I’ll give you some more,’ so it took a little while to get all 14 in the bag,” Popson said with a smile, recalling the 7-iron that dad pulled out of the bag and handed to her. “I went there the weekend after he died with my cousin Tony, it was the three of us out there a lot. We played nine holes and it was pretty emotional because you’re still waiting for him to walk through the door. He loved playing there and hanging with his buddies.”
While walking the fairways won’t ever feel the same for Popson, she realizes her dad will never miss a shot again. Instead of playing because it’s her job, it’s now about playing for his legacy.
“He hadn’t been able to travel and see me play since I was in college,” said Popson. “That’s nice to know he has a front-row seat to watch me play in tournaments because he never got to watch me compete as a professional. I want to do my best to play well and make him proud.”
LINDBLAD IN FIELD AS PART OF AJGA EXEMPTION
For a third consecutive year, the Symetra Tour and American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) are partnering together to give three AJGA Invitational winners exemption into select Symetra Tour events and Florida’s Natural Charity Classic kicks off the 2019 relationship.
On January 21, (Halmstad, Sweden) sank a short par putt on the first hole of a three-way sudden-death playoff to win the ANNIKA Invitational USA presented by Rolex. It was her first start in an AJGA event and the performance sealed a spot in the 132-player field this week at the Country Club of Winter Haven.
“Last year I came in second at the ANNIKA Invitational Europe and that gave me an exemption to the ANNIKA Invitational USA,” said Lindblad, who is No. 83 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “My game felt ok and then the last day I was three shots from the lead, but I played pretty good. I was the only who hit the green, then I made a two-putt and they failed to get up and down.”
Still an amateur, Lindblad is committed to Louisiana State University (LSU) where she will begin her collegiate career in the fall. For now, the 18-year-old is simply eager to tee it up in her first professional event.
“I’m here to learn this week and I can’t wait to see how the professionals compete, both on and off the course,” Lindblad said. “Also, there’s a totally different grass type than we have at home. Around the greens, many people can hit shots that I can’t hit. I’m excited to learn about that too.”