Sorenstam came to America to attend the University of Arizona, a decision she calls the turning point of her life. She won the 1991 NCAA individual title and after turning professional, was voted rookie of the year in Europe and then on the LPGA. Sorenstam announced to the golf world that she was could be a historic player when she won back-to-back U.S. Women’s Open titles in 1995 and 1996.
But she did not rest. Sorenstam began work on a physical regimen that would revolutionize the women’s game. In an effort to increase her driving distance and become a more powerful player, Sorenstam began a five-day-a-week program with a personal trainer. Stories of her workouts, including push-ups with 50 pounds strapped to her back, became the stuff of legend.
And it worked. From ranking 26th on the LPGA Tour in driving distance with an average of 252 yards in 2000, Sorenstam improved to first in 2003 with an average of 272, while still hitting better than 80 percent of fairways.
From 2001-05, Sorenstam went on a historic run. She dominated the women’s game, winning 43 times and finishing in the top three nearly 70 percent of the time. In 2001, she became the first woman to break the 60 barrier, firing a 13-under 59 in the second round of the Standard Register PING. It remains the lowest round in LPGA history, and the scorecard is still displayed in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Despite winning three more times in 2008, Sorenstam, just 37 and third on the LPGA’s all-time victory list, abruptly retired from the game. Her focus was had changed to interests outside the ropes, like starting a family. She also began building the Annika brand. In true Sorenstam fashion, her empire now includes a golf academy in Orlando, a charitable foundation, a winery, a clothing line, golf course design, a financial group, and regular appearances on Golf Channel broadcasts.
Despite no longer dominating on the course, her celebrity endures. And the launching pad was one of the rare events she didn’t win; teeing it up at the Colonial elevated Sorenstam from LPGA superstar to global personality.
“Colonial was my mission,” Sorenstam said after she announced her retirement. “It was my path, my journey and I felt like people accepted that, ‘Hey she’s an athlete, and she wants to get better.’ I’ve always let my clubs do the talking. And I felt like people accepted me for that.”