Annika Sorenstam dominated women’s golf for over fifteen years. In fact, she was so good that she teed it up against the men and played in a PGA Tour event.
Born in Bro, Sweden– a small town near Stockholm– on this date in 1970, she is the oldest of two girls, both of whom went on to become professional golfers. As a child, Annika was a nationally ranked tennis player, played soccer and was such a good skier that the Swedish national coach tried to get the family to move to Northern Sweden so she could practice year-round. She took up golf at age 12 and was so shy that she purposely lost tournaments in order to avoid making a speech. Sorenstam joined the Swedish National Team at age 17 and won the St. Rule Trophy at the Old Course at St. Andrews in 1990. That fall, she enrolled at the University of Arizona, where she won the NCAA individual title her freshman year — the first foreign player and first frosh to accomplish that feat. She was named National Co-Player of the Year that season and, as a sophomore, won the Pac-10 title, was runner-up in the NCAAs and was named to the All-American team. Sorenstam finished second at the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1992 and decided to turn pro after her second year at U of A. She missed the cut in the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament by one shot and began her pro career on the Ladies European Tour [LET], finishing second in four tournaments and earning 1993 LET Rookie of the Year honors.
Sorenstam qualified for the LPGA Tour the following season, where she had one second-place finish and three other top 10s in route to being named 1994 LPGA Rookie of the Year. Her breakout season came the following year, when Sorenstam won three events, including her first win as a professional at the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open. She also won the LET Order of Merit [money title] and Player of the Year award, LPGA Player of the Year and money title, Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, the Jerringpriset Award [Sweden’s most prestigious sports honor] and appeared on a Swedish postage stamp. It was the first time any player had topped both the European and LPGA money list in the same season, and Sorenstam was just getting started. She won three more times in 1996, including a successful title defense at the U.S Women’s Open, won a second consecutive Vare Trophy and passed the $ 1 million mark in LPGA career earnings. The following year, she won six LPGA titles, led the money list and was named Player of the Year for the second time. In 1998, she won four times, claimed the money title, was Player of the Year and won the Vare Trophy while establishing the lowest scoring average [69.99] in LPGA history. The 2000 season was the first of six consecutive years in which Ms. Sorenstam won at least five tournaments. The 2001 campaign was her best yet, as she won a major at the Kraft Nabisco Championships as well as seven other events, set or tied 30 LPGA records and became the only female ever to shoot 59 in a tournament. Annika’s career earnings surpassed $ 2 million and she again won the Vare Trophy and Player of the Year award. She followed that by winning 11 times on Tour and twice more in Europe, amassing 13 victories in only 25 starts in 2002. The 5’6” Swede accepted an invitation to play in the Colonial tournament, a highly-regarded stop on the men’s tour, in May of 2003, becoming the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias qualified for the Los Angeles Open in 1945. She shot five over par and missed the cut due to poor putting but went on to win the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open later that summer, becoming only the sixth player to complete the LPGA Grand Slam. She continued her dominance in 2004, posting 16 top-10 finishes in 18 LPGA starts and winning eight of them. She won twice internationally, lowered the season scoring record to 68.69 and was honored with several Sportswoman of the Year awards.
Annika Sorenstam played professional golf from 1992 to 2008, winning 72 times on the LPGA Tour and 93 titles worldwide. She won 10 major championships, including the career Grand Slam, and was named LPGA Player of the Year a record eight times. Sorenstam represented Europe in eight Solheim Cup matches and was the event’s all-time leading points earner until her record was broken in 2011. She took the LPGA money title eight times and won the Vare Trophy a record six times. Sorenstam was twice named LET Player of the Year and won over $ 22 million in official prize money – the most in the history of women’s golf. She is one of two players in history to win 10 or more tournaments twice in a career and has won eight ESPY Awards. Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam are the only sisters in the history of the LPGA to each top over $ 1 million in career earnings. Annika was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003 and retired from competitive golf in 2008, a year in which she made 22 cuts in 22 starts, had ten top-10 finishes and won three tournaments.