August 13, 2010 in Sports

Annika busier than ever

Priorities changed, but competitive fire still burns
Pete Diprimio The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
 
Associated Press photo

Annika Sorenstam said goodbye to competitive golf in November of 2008 and hasn’t looked back.
(Full-size photo)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Rumor has it Annika Sorenstam is retired.

Forget it.

Yes, the LPGA Hall of Famer kissed the baby, charmed the crowd and inspired the golfers at last week’s Junior PGA Championship at Sycamore Hills. Sure, she insists her touring days that produced 90 international tourney wins, 72 on the LPGA Tour with 10 majors, are over.

Retired?

Never.

Sortenstam has a golf academy in Orlando, Fla., a healthy lifestyles foundation, a clothing line, a wine label (Annika, of course), a perfume, a financial investment company and even a golf course design business.

Oh, yes. She’s the mother of 11-month-old Ava Madelyn with husband Mike McGee.

“I’m still very busy,” she said. “Life is great. Everything used to be so structured. It was golf, golf, golf all the time. Now things are different. My priorities are different.”

Changing priorities haven’t sapped the competitive fire that once helped Sorenstam dominate the women’s game the way Tiger dominated the men or Roger Federer ruled tennis. She won $22 million, $8 million more than any other woman. She was an eight-time LPGA player of the year.

“I’m still very competitive,” she said. “That will never go away. Now I’m competitive in the business world. I want my academy to be the best. I want my wine to be the best. I want my golf course design to be the best. Create the best course I can. I want to make a name for myself in that industry.

“When I put my name on something, I want I to be right. I want it to stand for the things I stand for.”

Sorenstam has designed 10 golf courses all over the world, including China, South Africa and Canada.

“I love it. You have to use imagination and creativity. I think of all the courses I played on. What did I like. What didn’t I like. The biggest challenge is the environment, the piece of dirt I have to work with. I go to China and Canada and it’s mountains. I go to South Africa and it’s open area. It never gets old.”

Sorenstam pushes a message of goal setting, preparation and perspective when she talks to young golfers.

Sorenstam’s journey began while growing up in Sweden surrounded by sports. She was a nationally ranked junior tennis player with visions of becoming a female Bjorn Borg, the former No. 1 player from Sweden. She thrived at skiing and volleyball as well as golf.

Tennis burnout by the age of 16 (plus an admitted weak backhand) pushed her toward golf. She eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Arizona, won the NCAA championship and turned pro. She’s the only woman to shoot a 59 in a competitive event. It came on March 16, 2001.

“It seemed so easy that day,” she said. “I don’t know why it hasn’t felt that way since.”

It’s common these days to see athletes retire early, then return. The 39-year-old Sorenstam insists she won’t join them.

“I stepped away 18 months ago. It was fun to have the adrenaline pumping when you’re playing, but I do not miss the grind and all the travel. I made the decision to step away. The motivation to be out there and practice slowly disappeared.

“I’m enjoying life.”

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