Erica Popson (Davenport, Florida) won eight times in college at Tennessee then qualified for the LPGA through Qualifying Tournament and then “crashed and burned”. In November of 2015, she nearly quit the sport. On Sunday at Raintree Country Club, Popson carded a 2-under 70 to win the Symetra Classic at 8-under, 208. It is her first career Symetra Tour victory.

Jenni Jenq, Emma de Groot and Kendall Dye finished in a tie for second at 6-under, 210.

Popson’s win and $22,500 first-place paycheck vaults her from 45th to fourth on the new Volvik Race for the Card money list. Popson now has earned $27,946 through six events.

“This is unreal, I still can’t believe it is happening,” said the 25-year-old Popson. “So excited right now and wish my family was here to celebrate, but I know they are happy for me back home. I’m going to go out with my caddy tonight and celebrate and just soak this one in.”

Popson, who entered the day four shots off the lead, made early birdies on three and six to move to 8-under.  Dye, who started the day in front and was playing two groups behind, made double-bogey on seven to drop to 8-under. Popson made bogey on nine to fall to 7-under and then made six consecutive pars on the back nine while Dye and Augusta James were fading. Emma de Groot made a birdie on the 16th green while Popson was in the fairway to get to 7-under.

On the 17th hole, Popson stuck her approach to six feet and calmly drained a birdie to take a one shot lead. After de Groot made bogey on the 18th, Popson put her tee shot on the middle of the 18th green and then two-putted for the win.

“I just played steady golf and I felt like I hit a lot of fairways,” said Popson, who hit 37 of 42 fairways during the tournament. “I gave myself a lot of opportunities and missed some short ones, but I didn’t let that bother me. It was more focus on me and less about what else was happening around me.”

After dominating at the University of Tennessee, Popson finished T9 at 2013 Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament to earn her full status. She missed 14 cuts during the 2014 season on the LPGA Tour.

“I played well in college and got my LPGA card right away and had big hopes and dreams, but I just crashed and burned,” said Popson. “It was very disappointing, but I started working with two new coaches since

November and they both have helped me overcome some major hurdles mentally and physically. Without them and my friends and family, I think I would have quit golf by now. It is cool to see some really hard work start to pay off.”

In November, Popson took a trip to Arkansas to see former PGA TOUR player Deane Pappas (a two-time Web.Com Tour winner).

“I said to myself that if he can’t help me, I’m done and I am going to go into coaching,” explained Popson. “He took me back to square one and we started with set up. In January, I started working with a longtime friend Roger Masterson (whose son Josh is now on the bag for Popson) and I’ve kept in touch with Deane and they’ve both helped me grind through this.”

Popson started strong on the Symetra Tour with three top 30 finishes in the first five events. Two weeks ago, she Monday Qualified for the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout on the LPGA.

Now, she has her first career win.

“It is an important win, but it is still early in the year,” said Popson. “This week was all about no expectations so I have no expectations the rest of the year except to keep this momentum going.”

 

CHARLOTTE NATIVE EMREY FINISHES T19

Allison Emrey had just a five-minute drive from home to Raintree Country Club each day for the Symetra Classic this weekend. The Charlotte native was followed by large groups of family and friends each of her three rounds as she posted scores of 72-72-70 (-2) en route to her best finish (T19) on the Symetra Tour to date.

“It was nice,” said Emrey of seeing the familiar faces in the crowd. “I think it helped me just because I knew they were here to support me and they kind of got rowdy a little bit. It was really nice just to be in my hometown. I stayed at home so that definitely helped and my mom cooked dinner last night and we just kind of hung out, low key.”

The Wake Forest grad had a chip-in eagle on the 10th hole to help her post a 2-under 70 in the final round.

“I hit driver down the middle and then just kind of bombed a 3-wood to try to get as close as I could to the green,” Emrey recalled. “Then I had 53 yards in and just played it a little bit left of the hole and it kind of kicked in. I couldn’t really see it, it just rolled in.”

Emrey will be seeking to carry forward some momentum from her strong finish in Charlotte as she competes in the third of five consecutive tournaments on her schedule next week at the Gosling’s Dark ‘n Stormy Classic in Milton, Georgia.

“Definitely, I’ve been kind of looking for that this year,” Emrey said of playing well on a consistent basis. “I’ve had a couple good weeks but haven’t really had a string in a row, so I’m looking forward to next week.”

 

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Photo Credit: Mark Walters Photography

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