NCGA Golf

Spring 2019

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"I fell in love with the area," Sorenstam says. "Of all the places I've traveled through- out my career, we still go back to Tahoe for one month in the winter and one month in the summer." The traditional ski trip over Christmas and the kids' spring break has been ex- tended to 15 months (through August so the kids can complete the school year) this time while they gutted the family's other home at Lake Nona, a suburb of Orlando. It has given the 48-year-old Sorenstam and her family—husband, Mike, and children Ava and Will—the chance to fully appreci- ate all the outdoor activities available to them. Sorenstam loved nothing more than getting out for a ride on her mountain bike. It's a different life than the one she enjoyed during the heyday of her golf career when Sorenstam became a one-name superstar for a gender that has had precious few of them, a champion with a relentless work ethic and will to win. Raised in a sporting family in the small town of Bro, outside Stockholm, Sweden, Sorenstam skied and played volleyball, bad- minton, soccer and tennis with younger sister Charlotta, also later an LPGA Tour member, and parents Tom, an executive at IBM, and Gunilla, both avid golfers. In their youth, the sisters would tag along with their parents and have fun hitting golf balls with their little clubs. Tennis was Sorenstam's first devotion. Countryman Bjorn Borg was her child- hood idol. She rose as high as 12th in her country's junior rankings—Charlotta climbed to 10th—but quit the game at 16 frustrated by opponents' unrelenting assault on her pedestrian backhand. Sorenstam didn't take up golf until age 12, but with tennis out of the way, she began to excel and spent three years on the Swedish national amateur team. With few collegiate golf options in her homeland, Sorenstam came to the United States at age 19 and won the NCAA individual title in her first season at the University of Arizona. She turned professional after her second season and found immediate suc- cess, first as the European Tour's Rookie of the Year in 1993 and then the LPGA Tour's Rookie of the Year in 1994. To run down a list of Sorenstam's wins and awards is like reading a catalogue of the available prizes in women's golf. Her 72 titles ranks third all time in LPGA victories behind Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82). Sorenstam finished No. 1 on the tour money list eight times starting in 1995, including five straight years, from 2001 through '05. Victory only seemed to build in her a thirst for more. The Swede collected more LPGA titles than any other golfer in the 1990s (18) and in 2002 became only the second player in LPGA history to win 11 times in a season. Still, when asked what she intended to do to prepare for 2003, she responded with two words: "Work harder." To explain her devotion to her craft, Sorenstam recounts the story of the time that she called her father to pick her up from practice because it was raining. As they drove off, he pointed out that not everyone had called it quits and passed on advice that she lives by to this day: "There's no shortcuts to success." It was a gospel that would come to define her more than any other. Behind her trademark cool exterior was a singular focus and drive that renewed itself with each success. By winning the 2003 LPGA Championship and Women's British Open, she became the sixth woman to complete the career grand slam. 26 SPRING 2019 | NCGA.ORG In describing how she no longer had the desire nor the hunger to rule the game, Sorenstam used the analogy of attempting to climb Mount Everest: "I got to the top, sat there for a while and it was nice, but all of a sudden you realize there are other mountains out there." Annika teaches her junior contestants to reach for the stars and they have: Of the 72 contestants in the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur, 59 of them have competed in one or more of Sorenstam's tournaments held around the globe.

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