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  • At 90, Popow still in the swing of things

  • Pat Popow did her best Tiger Woods celebratory gesture.
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  • Pat Popow did her best Tiger Woods celebratory gesture.
    No, she hadn't split the fairway with a 350-yard drive, hadn't knocked an approach shot to within inches of the hole, hadn't drained a serpentining, 60-foot putt.
    Her feat was far more impressive.
    "I pumped my fist and said it's been a goal of mine to play golf when I'm 90," she said. "That was a plus."
    She made the statement on June 17th, when, after play, her Lady Niners golf group at Stewart Meadows Golf Course threw her a surprise birthday party on the patio to commemorate her new status as a nonagenarian.
    In a photo, she's smiling broadly, a beautiful, scrumptious cake in front of her as she raises her hand, a tiny drink in it.
    Was she smiling because she'd just played a stellar round, or was it another reason?
    "I think it was the surprise party and the whipped cream vodka," she giggled. "It was my first experience with that. I immediately went out and bought a bottle."
    Popow has been playing golf for about 45 years. She took up the game at the urging of a friend and began with group lessons at Rogue Valley Country Club from then-pro Ron Caperna. Her late husband immersed himself in the game, and she followed suit.
    It was destined, perhaps, for her grandfather, Frederick Furry, built a house in about 1887 that her father lived in. It stands today in the middle of a golf course, the white house adjacent to the 14th green at Centennial Golf Club.
    Little did Popow know that at 90, she'd still belong to two golf groups — she also plays at Quail Point once a week.
    Asked if her groups keep her young, Popow said, "They keep me younger. They tolerate me well."
    None of the gals she plays with at Stewart Meadows have reached 90 yet — "I won that race," said Popow.
    But two playing partners at Quail Point, Betty Root and Becky Hyde, have that distinction.
    "We seem to be getting older and older," said Popow, who made this column a few years ago when she achieved her second career hole-in-one at age 84. "It's a pleasure to be 90 and be well and feel well more than anything. I get to get out and enjoy friends and enjoy the outdoors."
    The key to her longevity, of course, is taking care of herself.
    "Absolutely," she said. "Take care of yourself and force yourself to get off the couch and be active. That's the most important thing."
    Popow once played to a handicap as low as 19. She remembers because she got two strokes on the No. 1 handicap hole at RVCC, the par-5 12th. She now shoots in the mid-50s for nine.
    There have been concessions to age as she's gone from an 18-hole player to nine-holer.
    "I can't walk anymore," said Popow. "I have to take a cart. I have bad knees so I don't walk really well. There are things that happen when you get older. It just happens. You have to force yourself beyond that. I like people and being around people. I always have. My husband had a hardware store, and I nearly died when he sold the business."
    When she's not surrounded by friends on the golf course, she enjoys playing in her bridge group or watching sports on TV, particularly the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks. She hopes to take in a couple M's games this fall.
    In the meantime, Popow will keep swinging away.
    "Golf has been a fun game in my life," she said.
    u
    MEDFORD'S DYLAN WU came within a gimme of making the U.S. Amateur in qualifying Monday at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell.
    The freshman-to-be at Northwestern tied for fourth place with two others at 1-over-par 145 for 36 holes. The top three qualified for the Amateur, and the triumvirate at 145 played off to determine the first two alternates.
    Wu bogeyed the first playoff hole and was third. What he didn't know then was the other two vying as alternates — James Beale and David Fink — would actually gain spots in the Amateur as replacements for original qualifiers.
    "I made a really dumb bogey on the first playoff hole," said Wu, who recently graduated from St. Mary's.
    He went off in the first group, a twosome, for the afternoon round, then waited three hours as others completed play.
    "I knew if I could put up a good number, I had a chance," said Wu. "Then I got to play the waiting game. It was looking promising for a while."
    For the playoff, he said, "I was pretty tired waiting and chilling around. It was a little depressing waiting for the last group and finding out I didn't make it."
    His rounds of 74 and 71 represented his best rounds at Emerald Valley. In the playoff, he found greenside rough and played aggressively out of it, leading to bogey.
    Regardless, his day was a continuation of recent strong play.
    The week before in the Pacific Northwest Men's Amateur in Pullman, Wash., Wu was the seventh seed in qualifying and made it to the semifinals, where he lost to eventual champion Beale.
    In the quarterfinals, he eliminated Hans Reimers of Albany, who three days later won the Emerald Valley qualifier.
    Wu, who wrapped up his junior golf career a couple weeks ago, will next play in the prestigious Pacific Coast Amateur Tuesday through Friday in Flagstaff, Ariz.
    Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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