Sarah White – Popov Story in the Making?

Sarah White, Just Starting Out, Wins Founders Tribute

Everyone comes from somewhere, including everyone who is famous. Everyone who wins a big golf tournament won a small one somewhere back there. Everyone who plays on the LPGA had to qualify to get there. So why not write about Sarah White and her victory at Longbow at the Founders Tribute? Yes, it’s the Symetra Tour. You can say that it’s a sub-tour if you want, but a lot of subsequent champions pass through it, so we’d better be prepared.

A couple of things caught my eye about this story. First of all, one of the people White beat out for this trophy was Sophia Popov, who just won the Women’s British Open.  Second, she was goalkeeper for two years at East Kentwood High School’s hockey team in Grand Rapids. My mind made an instant connection to Brooke Henderson, and look how that turned out. One never knows when a knack for one game is going to produce great results in another. I’ve never understood why I can be very coordinated at one thing and a complete klutz at another, even if the two are similar. Hockey seems to be good for golf in some cases, at least among female golfers.

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White has been dreaming of this since she was a kid. We don’t know much about her yet. No one has had time to write full-length biographies or create film documentaries, but stay tuned.  We do know that she has attended Texas State University and Western Michigan University. I found a list of events she has played from juniors to collegiate, plus one appearance at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, an elite tournament. It appears as though it’s the only cut she’s ever missed. Whether that’s true or not, she shows a strong propensity for a steady, “there all the time” game.

I suspect that White is a fairly long hitter, based on her own comments. She claims to have hit a 345 yard drive down there in Arizona, where the temperatures were over 110 degrees. I’ve hit one 300 yard drive in my life, and it was also in Arizona in the heat of summer. In my case, it was done on a slightly-sloping hard pan. I might as well have teed it up on a downward tilted runway  or  cart  path.

I noted that White earned a check for the Founders in the amount of over $18,000. Realizing how expensive a speculative golf career can be, I wish her every cent possible for her work. And, even in an age where we see huge money tossed around on the PGA, there’s no way I could laugh off a check like that. Already I can think of some major repairs around the house that need tending to.

It’s no longer a day when we can downplay or ignore someone who is succeeding at the first stages of a career. Symetra-style events turn into later Annika Sorenstam moments. Good collegiate golfers are not taking as long to acclimate to the LPGA as they once did. They are coming out with a more developed, sophisticated mental game than in previous decades.

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Sophis Popov taught me a lesson this past week that I’m going to use in following Sarah White. Stop paying attention only to the oaks of the game, and start noticing the acorns, too. Take notice when a young aspiring golfer puts several good scoring days together, and drop the “Aw, isn’t that sweet?” thing for brilliant juniors. These may be the people who win the Opens a decade from now.




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