Through 36 holes in the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge, Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) leads the way at 7-under par overall following a 2-under 68 this afternoon at Willow Run Golf Course.
“Kind of got in a rut where I was hitting greens and two-putting a lot,” Popov said after recording three birdies in the second round. “Made a couple good up and downs to save par, but wanted to get it closer toward the end. I was hitting loose shots here and there, so I think I expected more out of myself.”
Since finishing tied for 32nd at the Final Stage of the 2017 LPGA Qualifying Tournament to earn Priority List Category 17 membership for the 2018 LPGA Tour season, Popov has made 20 starts on the big stage. Meanwhile, she’s advanced to the weekend in all 12 Symetra Tour events played over the last two years.
“I’ve had a lot of success over the last couple years and just missed out on my full LPGA Tour card by a hair twice,” said Popov, who ended tied for 36th at the inaugural LPGA Q-Series to earn status for the 2019 LPGA Tour season. “I like being out here and feel like I’m one of the best players. That gives me the right amount of confidence to play and do my thing, be a little less nervous. When I play in LPGA events, I expect a lot and that puts a lot of pressure on me. I don’t do that as much on the Symetra Tour, which has helped me play some really good golf.”
GAMEPLAN TO STAY THE SAME FOR ADAMS
Another piece to the final pairing puzzle off No. 1 tee tomorrow at 9:31 a.m. CT is Lori Beth Adams (Burlington, North Carolina), just one shot back of the lead at 6-under par overall.
“I scrambled on the back side, which was my front and just couldn’t hit a fairway,” said Adams, who went 1-under par with three birdies coming in. “Stayed with it and my putter was working, had it all together on the first nine. I’m just taking par, really. The greens are tricky, full of spike marks, but I’m staying with the gameplan.”
When the day was done, the University of North Carolina Wilmington alumna signed for a 2-under par 68. Adams mentioned recent work with her swing coach Jason Widener as an important factor to this successful start in Sioux Falls, S.D., and the belief there’s more to come.
“Hit it close and try to make the putt,” Adams said referencing her mode of attack. “I’ve been playing really great golf, working hard with my coach and it’s coming together all of a sudden. I’ve been waiting for these two rounds. Goal is top-10 at the end of the year and this starts the final five tournaments to try and get there.”
TAVATANAKIT IN HUNT FOR THIRD VICTORY
A two-time Symetra Tour champion as a rookie in 2019 at the Donald Ross Classic and Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, Patty Tavatanakit (Bangkok, Thailand) is in search of her third win on the season and even closer to it now thanks to a bogey-free, 5-under par 65 second round.
At the halfway point in eastern South Dakota, she is 5-under overall and two strokes behind Popov. Furthermore, there’s one thing from those victorious experiences that Tavatanakit pointed to as something she’ll rely on over the final 36 holes.
“Stay patient,” said Tavatanakit. “I did really well today, especially with a slow start. I hit all 18 greens, but the putts weren’t dropping. All I would get on the greens is a tough slider, but two-putting is good out here. I kept my round going and was really patient. That’s what I learned in French Lick and also Rochester, to stay in the moment at hand.”
Janie Jackson (-5, T3) on staying in the hunt:
“Another good day, the course was setup a little easier today I thought. The wind was obviously hardly a factor compared to yesterday. Hit the ball well, made some putts and avoided big mistakes. This is a good golf course if you’re hitting the ball well that you can score on. Yesterday and today I did that, give myself plenty of birdie looks. Hopefully tomorrow get some more to drop, but if not then stay steady.”
Kyung Kim (-4, T5) on the defense of Willow Run Golf Course:
“Yesterday it didn’t feel like I played that bad, was just the wind making it hard to get close to the hole and today the course played easier. I hit it a little better and had more birdie opportunities. I think it can still be challenging even without the wind because if you’re not in the right area then your putts can be a little scary. Just need to play smart.”
Natalie Sheary (-4, T5) on what is going right through two rounds:
“I’ve been hitting my irons pretty close, we’re talking about if every hole was a par-3 then I’d be doing really good. Everything has been feeling alright, gave my shoulder a good rest during the off week since I wanted to come in as fresh as possible. You can’t go at many of these pins and the course is playing so different than it did in the practice rounds. Pick good clubs off the tee because of the runouts and wind.”
Madison Pressel (-1, T18) on a 5-under par 65 second round heading into the weekend:
“You have to stay below the hole on most of these and there was basically no wind to speak of today, so you could predict where your ball was going to land a lot better. I made six birdies and couple were long putts, so it’s always good to see it go in the hole. If I can have two more of these rounds, we’ll be golden. I haven’t checked what the wind will be like this weekend. Regardless, this brings more confidence.”
• Popov, 26, is a native of Heidelberg, Germany
• Won the 2010 International European Ladies Amateur Championship
• Named the 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year for the University of Southern California and also selected as the National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) Freshman of the Year
• Member of the 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf National Championship title team and finished her Trojans career as only the second four-time All-American in program history
• Five career collegiate victories tie Popov for the most in USC history, while 22 rounds in the 60s is tops by any Trojans player and career stroke average of 72.71 is second
• Finished T11 at the Final Stage of the 2014 LPGA Qualifying Tournament to earn Priority List Category 12 membership for the 2015 LPGA Tour season
• 39 events on the Symetra Tour during the 2016 and 2017 seasons featured 35 cuts made with 11 top-10s and a career-best solo second result at the 2016 Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial
• Finished T32 at the Final Stage of the 2017 LPGA Qualifying Tournament to earn Priority List Category 17 membership for the 2018 LPGA Tour season
• Battled injury throughout 2018, but made the cut in all three Symetra Tour starts and played the weekend in half of her 12 LPGA Tour starts with a career-best T13 finish at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give
• Finished T36 at the inaugural LPGA Q-Series to earn Priority List Category 14 status for the 2019 LPGA Tour season
ABOUT SYMETRA TOUR
The Symetra Tour is the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour and enters its 39th competitive season in 2019. With the support of its entitlement partner Symetra, the Tour’s mission is to prepare the world’s best young women professional golfers for a successful career on the LPGA Tour. Since Symetra’s inaugural sponsorship year in 2012, the Symetra Tour has grown from 16 tournaments and $1.7 million in prize money to $4.0 million in prize money awarded over the course of 23 events. With more than 600 alumnae moving on to the LPGA, former Symetra Tour players have won a total of 437 LPGA titles. Follow the Symetra Tour on the web at www.SymetraTour.com, Facebook.com/Road2LPGA, Twitter.com/Road2LPGA, and YouTube.com/Road2LPGA.
Symetra Life Insurance Company is a subsidiary of Symetra Financial Corporation, a diversified financial services company based in Bellevue, Washington. In business since 1957, Symetra provides employee benefits, annuities and life insurance through a national network of benefit consultants, financial institutions and independent agents and advisors. Symetra began its partnership with the Road to the LPGA in 2010 as the title sponsor of the Symetra Classic. It secured naming rights for the Symetra Tour in November 2011. In addition to its title sponsorship of the Tour, which runs through 2021, Symetra sponsors two events on the tournament schedule—the Symetra Classic and the season-ending Symetra Tour Championship. For more information about Symetra, visit www.symetra.com.