Sophia Popov, 21, from Weingarten in Germany, will be looking to start her professional golf career in style this week at the Ladies German Open presented by Marriott.
The University of Southern California graduate finished ninth in her third appearance in the tournament as an amateur last year at Gut Hausern and is one of the 12 German players in this year’s field.
Sophia: how excited do you feel to be making your professional debut in Germany?
I’m very excited. It’s crazy because I’ve been waiting for this moment for four years now. I decided to go to college so I feel that it took a while and everyone was expecting me to start playing. Now that it’s happening, I can’t believe the moment’s here. I’m a little scared too because I’m at home.
Why have you chosen this moment to turn professional?
I wanted to turn pro for a while and I knew I would get a wild card to this event. It’s at home and I was one of the top amateurs before I turned pro. I think there is almost no better point in time to turn pro than right now. I could have waited until after the worlds but I wanted to start at some point, so why not here?
You are wearing your national colours. Is this for the tournament?
Yes, but it is the last tournament I’ll be wearing the team colours and it’s as a thank you to the German Federation for everything they’ve done. They’ve supported me for so long as I’ve been in the team since 2006. They’ve done a lot for me and they are still supporting me at this event. I feel proud to be wearing this for another week.
Born in the US, you hold dual citizenship. Tell us about your journey.
I was four, turning five, when I moved to Germany. I live 25 minutes from St Leon Rot in Weingarten, which is exactly between Frankurt and Stuttgart. I have been a member of Golf club St Leon-Rot since 2005. I was 13 years old when I made the switch. I’m excited that we got The 2015 Solheim Cup and only found out just over a year ago. It doesn’t give me a lot of time to even get close to making the team, but regardless of whether I’m in the team or not, I’m excited for the event and I know the course and it’s at home so the drive home won’t be far every day.
What are your greatest amateur golf memories?
I holed a 50 footer to win the European Championships in 2010. Also the PING Junior Solheim Cup in 2009, playing for Europe, being in all the colours, that’s definitely another great memory. Other than that, World Championships in 2012, we came second and got really close to beating Korea but couldn’t quite make it.
How important was the PING Junior Solheim Cup to your development?
Playing the PING Junior Solheim Cup was a great experience. Playing for Europe and a bigger team than just Germany, meant a lot but at the same time, everyone gets so excited and you end up watching the Solheim Cup after and you are pretty pumped up for the players. You want to be there some day and I think the Junior Solheim Cup just gives you that last bit of motivation to get to that point and gives you a little in the butt.
What is your heritage?
My grandfather, my dad’s father, is Bulgarian, so that’s where the name comes from. My grandparents live half in Bulgaria and half in Austria. My name is like the vodka and in the States, a lot of people have drunk that, so I tell them about that if they ask how to spell my name.