A year later, Annika Sorenstam has four top-10 finishes in five starts for the season, including two wins. She leads the LPGA money list with $546,843. Aside from Grace Park, who is within $8,000, Sorentstams closest competitor is more than $60,000 away (Lorena Ochoa, $485,661). She is working on her fourth straight LPGA money title. She leads in scoring average (69.58) and percentage of under-par rounds (78.9) and is in the top 10 in five other statistical categories.
And a year after playing in one of golfs biggest fishbowls, Sorenstam, whose quiet grace, stunning ability, and competitive drive make up the most endearing Swedish export since Ingrid Bergman, appears devoid of ego.
But shes not short on confidence. And a year after she teed it up with the men in the Bank of America Colonial, she has moved on.
Oh, yeah, that was a long time ago, Sorenstam a couple of weeks ago before the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill. My mind was back on the LPGA the week after I played. I mean, you know, the Colonial experience was wonderful. But I came back to reality pretty quickly. And it's time to use all the experience over here, which is what I want.
Hmm. Doesnt exactly sound like the poster child for a new era in womens golf. But that was just humility. The week before, Annika addressed the bigger issue before the Chick-fil-A LPGA event:
The way I look at it, it's very, very positive, she said. The exposure I got, my sponsors got, the exposure the LPGA got ' I thought it was very, very positive. And a lot of these events around the world that I play in gives great exposure. It shows that we women are very competitive, that we are trying to take our game to a different level.
Seen in terms of exposure, the analysis is sound. Callaway, Cutter & Buck, Bank of America especially ' they all got the manna of sponsorship: Name recognition backed up by repetition. As a modern business deal, it couldnt fail, and the parties knew that every time they heard the words Bank of America Colonial and Annika in the same breath.
But it went farther than that. The bottom line, outside of business, is that this calm young woman stood up and put the naysayers down. No scowls, no fanfare of her own creation. Just a few deep breaths and a creditable tee shot, a smile and chat with playing partner Dean Wilson, and that was that. She did it.
But its legitimate to ask: What exactly did she do? Purses in womens events havent jumped, invitations for women to play in mens events have not burst forth as from a dam breaking. What progress was made?
As with any change in culture, it takes a stepand then another, and then another. As the nation found with a longer and more important benchmark this month ' the 50th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision ending segregation in public schools ' progress comes in steps, and the real end is way down the road.
No longer is it inconceivable that a woman who can compete at the proper ability level could play side by side with men. The idea still rankles with some people, to be sure. But so did the vote for women, the progress of school integration, and dozens of other steps into a better world.
And with Michelle Wie rushing through her teenage years at lightning speed, and other tall and flexible girls sure to be born, Annikas courage and grace last year become all the more relevant.
Like it, hate it, it doesnt matter ' at Colonial Country Club, Annika helped to colonize a new world.
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