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New moms Sophia Popov, Caroline Masson return at Seri Pak Championship

New moms Sophia Popov, Caroline Masson return at Seri Pak Championship

Two new moms return to the LPGA this week at the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship.

Major champion Sophia Popov, who first took a medical leave in 2022 to heal her right shoulder and then extended the time off after learning she was pregnant, gave birth to daugther Maya Mehles last June.

Fellow German Caroline Masson, 34, and husband Jason McDede, who caddies for Nelly Korda, welcomed son Benton last April. Masson’s last LPGA event was the 2022 CME Group Tour Championship.

“For us to be able to do this,” said Masson, “the three of us go on the road and make new memories, start this new adventure together, was really cool.”

Masson, who won her first LPGA title in 2016 at the Manulife, said she always had respect for the moms on tour but that it doubled or tripled in the last few months as she started to get back into golf shape.

Popov said that respect extends to female athletes across all sports.

“As an example, I was home over the summer,” said Popov. “I had just given birth in June. I was watching Wimbledon. I was watching Elina Svitolina come back and she was eight months postpartum and made it to the semifinals. I was sitting on the couch going, there is no way at eight months I’m going to be able to do this. Like I am just so out of shape.”

Popov, who stunned the golf world by winning the 2020 AIG Women’s British Open while competing on the Epson Tour, said even a basic core exercise was exhausting in those early months.

“I had a lot of ab separation, so you’re trying to get your abs back working, functioning,” she said. “You hit a golf ball and you’re like, man, I need my core a lot. I didn’t even realize that before. Like it comes naturally, and you take it for granted.”

Playing the tour as a mom takes a group effort. Masson’s son Benton joined the all-mom press conference in his stroller on Wednesday afternoon at Palos Verdes Golf Club.

While the physical challenges of coming back after giving birth are steep, the changed perspective offers a chance to hit refresh.

“It gets repetitive,” said Masson. “Year after year, you go to the same places. After a while you don’t appreciate it as much. So just to build up that excitement and putting in the work and seeing the process and really getting a little bit better every day and every week has been really fun preparing for this.”

It’s easier now to remember what’s important, too, added Popov, who played two weeks ago on the LET in Florida.

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