Annika Sörenstam: Named great by a great legend

Annika Sörenstam takes a shot during the Gary Player Invitational at Lost City Golf Course last week. Picture: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images
Annika Sörenstam takes a shot during the Gary Player Invitational at Lost City Golf Course last week. Picture: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images

When you are a leading woman golf player and one of the greatest icons of the game refers to you as “the greatest woman golf player”, it is difficult to pick out a few outstanding moments.

This is the case with Annika Sörenstam, who received this accolade from Gary “Black Knight” Player at last week’s Gary Player Invitational.

As with many of the sporting icons who graced the Lost City Golf Course fairways last week, Sörenstam not only shares a love and passion for the game, but she also feels the same about charity.

Her Annika Foundation raises money that is used to help empower young girls around the world to pursue their dreams.

“Golf is not just a game,” she said. “It is a sport that teaches you many life lessons. It is also a game that you can play for the rest of your life.”

Fast Facts

Full name: Annika Sörenstam 

Date of birth: October 9 1970 

Age: 48 

Place of birth: Stockholm County, Sweden 

Nationality: Swedish 

Residence: Orlando, Florida, US 

Professional career: Turned pro in 1992 and retired in 2008 

Number of wins by tour: LPGA Tour 72 (3rd all time); Ladies European Tour 17 (5th all time); LPGA of Japan Tour 2; LPGA Tour 4; best results in LPGA major championships (wins: 10); ANA Inspiration won in 2001, 2002 and 2005 

Women’s PGA Championship: Won in 2003, 2004 and 2005 

US Women’s Open: Won in 1995, 1996 and 2006

Du Maurier Classic: Second in 1998 

Women’s British Open: Won in 2003 

Achievements and awards: World Golf Hall of Fame 2003; LPGA Tour rookie of the year 1994; LPGA Tour player of the year 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005; LPGA Vare Trophy 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2005; LPGA Tour money winner 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005; Ladies European Tour rookie of the year 1993; Ladies European Tour order of merit 1995; Ladies European Tour player of the year 1995, 2002

Player is proof of this. The 83-year-old still dishes out a massive swing.

He had this to say about the 48-year-old Swede, who now resides in Florida in the US: “I played with her in Texas this year and she still packs a man swing.”

Player wants young South African women to follow in Sörenstam’s footsteps.

“Playing golf opened so many doors for me,” Sörenstam said. “I have made so many friends around the world through this sport. Actually, the world is my office.”

The legend, who turned professional in 1992, retired in 2008. She left her home country to live in the US in 2006, but still holds dual citizenship.

“I moved to be closer to good facilities and most parts of the world,” she said.

“I also retired at a good age to start a family. Now I travel with my kids all over the world. But I still visit home [Sweden, where her foundation is based] every six months.

“I was here at Sun City in 2006 and now I am here with my family. It is a lovely place and staying at The Palace is a treat.”

Having won 72 official Ladies’ Professional Golf Association tournaments – including 10 majors and 18 other tournaments internationally – Sörenstam still tops the woman career money list.

Through her dominant career, she earned just more than $22 million (R305 million).

This is $2 million ahead of second-placed Karrie Webb, who pocketed $20.2 million. The latter played 149 fewer events than Sörenstam, who also boasts a record eight player of the year awards.

After a little persuasion, she said highlights included being inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame, “shooting a 59 in 2001” and playing against a field of men in 2003.

Asked if she had any regrets, the answer was an emphatic “No!”

She added: “There have been times when I would step back or look at something and say ‘I could have done better’, but I have no regrets.”

She would like young women and girls around the world “to follow their dreams”.

“Don’t be afraid to take an opportunity when you get it,” Sörenstam said.

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