As he lay in bed recovering from numerous operations during his childhood, Kipp Popert used to play out top amateur golf tournaments in his head.
The operations were necessary to make day-to-day life a little easier after Popert was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia, which impairs the muscular movement in his legs.
But picturing himself playing in some of the game’s biggest events is no longer necessary after a season which saw Popert top the world rankings for golfers with a disability and set his sights on a career in the professional game.
A final round of 66 gave Popert victory in the European Disabled Golfers Association (EDGA) Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews in August, taking him top of the rankings and securing his place in the season finale in Dubai where he finished tied third behind Ireland’s Brendan Lawlor.
The event took place during the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship – Lawlor was presented with his trophy alongside tournament and Race to Dubai winner Collin Morikawa – and intensified Popert’s ambition to qualify for the main Tour himself in 2022.
“With the European Tour looking to expand and give us more of these events, I’m really excited as to what I can achieve,” the 23-year-old from Kent told the PA news agency.
“I missed playing in big events for a lot of my teenage years because I was in and out of hospital and just imagined I was at them.
“I’ve come to these (EDGA events) for the first time and think I’m doing pretty well. I’ve been given the platform to really develop my game and I think it will be exciting what I can achieve in the future.
“They had the disability clinic for the kids with Ian Poulter in Dubai and for those kids to actually see golf as an option (is great). I never knew it was an option, I just loved it because I got to play with my dad and worked out I was OK at it.”
That is a considerable understatement considering Popert plays to a handicap of plus four, considerably lower than those held by Ryder Cup star Poulter and former Open champion Paul Lawrie when they turned professional.
Popert also has a degree in applied golf management from Birmingham University to fall back on, but appears to have everything in place to help him chase his dream.
“I always knew I wanted to give this a go and the disability events came around at the right time for me,” he added. “I was going turn pro straight after uni and then Covid happened, there was no money in lower-ranked pro events so there was no real point.
“I played in the Brabazon Trophy this year and finished 22nd and 15th in the Irish Amateur. They are the two biggest events I’ve ever played in and I felt absolutely comfortable, even though I didn’t have my best stuff.
“Next year the key would be to play the biggest amateur events, then any invites I might get to Challenge Tour events to develop my game more and then it will be perfect timing at the end of the year when the European Tour qualifying school comes back.
“I’ve got my parents’ support and my club has put together the funds to let me play this year, and what’s come around at the perfect time is the change in amateur status rules so I’m hoping to get corporate sponsorship.”