NAIRN, Scotland –- Not so long ago, Erica Popson cringed at the sight of her golf ball in a divot, a bunker or any other similarly buried lie. An injured left thumb was the story of her first 2 1/2 years at Tennessee, and had that continued, one might imagine the bright yellow gorse and thick fescue bordering the fairways at Nairn Golf Club could be the stuff of nightmares.
That, however, is the old Popson, or simply “EPop” or “Pop,” as she’s known by teammates.
“My thumb feels great. It’s not sore or anything, so I’m really excited about that,” Popson said. “… I haven’t taped it over here or anything.”
Consider Popson to be the darkhorse of this U.S. squad for the Curtis Cup matches against Great Britain & Ireland. Her only previous U.S. Golf Association appearance was at the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior in West Hartford, Conn. She was 17 then, and went out in the first round of match play at Hartford Golf Club. Since that experience, she has used the summers to rest her hand. After undergoing surgery during the offseason, the thumb no longer is an issue. On Thursday, the last day before real competition, Popson stood on the range next to her teammates and hammered driver after driver without a hint of hesitation.
When the Curtis Cup team came together for the first time during late January in Palm Springs, Calif., Popson was still tender from the surgery and limited in her practice. Aside from bonding off the course, the idea of that session was to test players’ compatibility in foursomes and fourball scenarios. Popson had to leave most of her bag behind.
“I went out there with my, like, five golf clubs and was like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go,’ ” she said earlier this spring. “I hit a lot of the second shots in when we were practicing alternate shot.”
Popson’s college resume should speak for itself. There’s the four-tournament winning streak (one was a tie) that she strung together at the end of her sophomore season. She tied for first at another event, the LSU Classic, at the beginning of this spring, and ended the season ranked No. 22 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings after finishing T-63 at the national championship.
“NCAAs were tough; it was a long season,” said Popson, who is from Davenport, Fla. “I didn’t play all that great in the spring. It was just a whole bunch of frustration building up, and this week has just been so much fun.”
Popson’s experience with team golf is limited, and dates back to junior golf in Florida. Still, the strength of her game is playing in the wind (plentiful at Nairn) because her natural ball flight is low. After a week of practice in Scotland, she thinks she could pair with anyone on the team.
With the hand issues cleared up, that left only the battle over Twitter. Teammate Tiffany Lua began a push in Palm Springs to get every Curtis Cup member on the social-media site, and Popson was the last to give in.
Popson finally started her account when the team met at Newark, N.J., last week for the flight to Scotland. Lua had promised Popson an In-N-Out burger, and when she delivered a T-shirt with the restaurant’s logo, Popson caved. Nearly a week later, @EPopson has 33 followers and counting. Lua was the first.
“I was going to get it anyway for Curtis Cup week,” Popson said. “I’ve tweeted a few times.”
That outlet says all you need to know about Popson’s feelings this week. Posted Monday, “Another amazing day in Scotland! I am having the time of my life!”