By DOUG Ferguson, AP Golf writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Annika Sorenstam smiled and started shaking her head before she listened to the rest of the question, already aware of what other people might think of one of the most prominent players on the LPGA Tour in 12 years. Later returning to the competition.
He is among 120 players in the region for the Gainbridge LPGA this week.
The next week she returns as a wife, mother and businessman.
“This is not a withdrawal. It is a presence. And I’m thrilled about it, ”Sorenstem said Wednesday, noting that Nona Lake, her home course for 21 years and a big reason she decided to play for the first time since retiring in 2008.
His appearance is no less amazing.
Sorenstam turns 50 years old in October. She announced her retirement at the age of 37 and was coming off consecutive wins, the last of her 72 wins on the LPGA Tour.
Their youngest child, 9-year-old Will, has a golf bug and brings Sorenstam out more often. She has played in the PNC Championship with her father in the last two years. Diamond Resorts supports her foundation, so she played in the celebrity division of the LPGA Tour season opener last month.
And then the Gainbridge LPGA moved from South Florida to Lake Nona, and Sorenstam was already considering a return to competition at the US Senior Women’s Open.
“I felt I needed some tournament rounds,” she said. “I need some experience inside the ropes and focus on 18 holes, making the put, no mulligan and no gim.”
This is a treat for players who only know Sorenstam for his Hall of Fame career. Her career is a Grand Slam, and she became known on a first-name basis in golf when she tried to compete against the men at the Colonial in 2003, playing the first female 45-year-old on the PGA Tour.
Some 40 players in the field know him for the Enica Foundation which supports amateur golf around the world. They all used to play her tournaments, and now they get to compete with her for at least a week.
One of them is Gabriella Ruffles, a former American Women’s Amateur Champion who played at Annika Intercollegiate when she was in Southern California.
“He’s the greatest ever, and it’s really nice to see him walking around,” Ruffles said. “I saw him a few days ago at the range. I was star-struck to be honest. “
Sorenstam knows expectations better, higher or lower. No matter how much she has been practicing in recent weeks for this appearance, she simply cannot flip the switch. He had a swing that could be repeated in any form, with that famous early head turn, that golf had been his priority when it came to tireless work.
There is a hunger for victory.
Sorenstam, the only player to shoot 59 on the LPGA, said, “I think it would be a good thing for me to shoot.” “I obviously do the best I can. I think the biggest difference nowadays is that I am not as I was. Nowadays I’m good for 14 holes, and I don’t know what the other four are coming up with. This is a bit more surprising on the course. “
She has a house near the 16th tee in Lake Nona, and Sorrenstem jokes that this is the only part of the course she knows. Members of Lake Nona mostly see him at the pickle or clubhouse for an Easter brunch or Thanksgiving feast.
Now it is about golf at the highest level. Lake Nona, for many PGA and LPGA players, hosted the Solheim Cup in 1990, and matches were held between tour members of the first Tavistock Cup, Lake Nona and Isleworth.
“If this lake wasn’t Nona, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I am in a different place in my life. LPGA has been a big part of my life, in my heartbeat and amazing memories. But that’s why I’m not here to make more. “
Nevertheless, she takes her golf seriously with a scorecard in hand.
Sorenstam did not say how she would prepare for the US Senior Women’s Open in July. Right around the time of the Olympics, and Sorenstam was recently appointed to a formal role as president of the International Golf Federation, which was overseas Olympic golf. He said that IGF Executive Director Antony Scanlon was in favor of his playing.
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