Former college All-Americans Ally McDonald (Mississippi State) and Sophia Popov (University of Southern California) both carded 5-under 67’s to share the first-round lead at the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial on Thursday. McDonald and Popov are both in the top 20 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list early in the year.
McDonald made six birdies against just one bogey.
“I just tried to free my swing up and hit good shots,” said McDonald, who felt she was getting too technical. “I can’t worry about having the perfect swing and that was kind of the same mindset today.”
McDonald has a good understanding of the importance of this week. Back in 2014 when she played on the U.S. Curtis Cup team and had the chance to spend time with Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon.
“This is such a unique event, rarely do we ever get to play with the legends,” said McDonald. “For most us, when we see them it is like ‘oh my gosh, they had such a successful career’ so to play in a tournament with them is amazing.”
Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) spent much of the offseason in Naples, practicing mostly at Hunters Ridge Golf and Country Club. Popov, who is commuting from home this week, had her mom on the bag and posted a 5-under 67.
“She is usually never on my bag, but she is here for a couple of weeks and it is really nice to just be able to talk to her about anything but golf, which really helps,” explained 23-year-old Popov, who admitted being nervous before most rounds. “The nervousness went away on the third or fourth hole and I got going.”
Popov is looking forward to seeing and potentially playing with Nancy Lopez. In 2009, she played on the European team for the Junior Solheim Cup and Lopez was the captain of the U.S. team.
“I really liked her because she was really, really nice,” said Popov. “She was so great as a captain to the girls and I would love to play with her, it would be really fun. She is a legend so it would obviously mean a lot to learn from her.”
For more information on the Chico''s Patty Berg Memorial, visit the tournament page.