Sorenstam to Play at Colonial

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Annika Sorenstam will play in the Bank of America Colonial May 22-25, fthe first woman to play in a mens tournament since Babe Zaharias competed in the Los Angeles Open in 1945.
 
Sorenstam's husband, David Esch, confirmed his wife's decision early Wednesday morning. Esch said the details were worked out over the phone late Tuesday night.
 
Last week there was speculation that the club's members didn't want to be the first men's tournament for Sorenstam. But that position shifted abruptly over the weekend when it became apparent that the tournament's new title sponsor, The Bank of America, wanted Sorenstam to play in the tournament.
 
The official press release came out late Wednesday morning. 'Our tournament has historically recognized and supported exceptional players who otherwise would not qualify for our invitational event,' remarked tournament chairman Dee Finley. Annikas accomplishments show that she is certainly deserving. The Colonial Country Club and our board of governors are excited that Annika has accepted our invitation to play.
 
Sorenstam said, 'All the attention and speculation are flattering, and I appreciate that the Bank of America Colonial golf tournament is giving me this opportunity to compete in a PGA Tour event. There were many invitations, but the golf course and schedule of the Colonial were ideal. For all the well-wishers who want to know why I would accept such a challenge, the answer is simple: I am curious to see if I can compete in a PGA Tour event.
 
Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, is listed at 7,080 yards and is
believed to be one of the tour's best suited courses to Sorenstam's game
which is predicated on precision. The course is tree-lined, tight and usually
runs hard and fast.
 
Corpening pointed out that part of the club's initial reluctance to have
Sorenstam play there was what he called the 'spectacle' that arose at
Colonial in 1997. That year their tournament was the first time Tiger Woods
and Fuzzy Zoeller got together after Zoeller's widely circulated off-color
remarks about Woods earlier in the season following Woods' first Masters
victory.
 
Phil Mickelson, for one, welcomes Sorenstam to the competition.
 
'Most of the guys hit 2-iron or 3-wood off those tees and Annika will hit driver,' she said. 'So they are about the same. I don't think their is much of a disadvantage at all. And the fairways are always fast, so it's not like you have to fly it a long way.
 
'I think it's a perfect venue for her.'
 
Sorenstam won 13 times worldwide in 2002 and is clearly the best woman golfer
in the world at the moment.
 
LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw was supportive of Sorenstam's decision.
 
As I have always said, Annika is one of the greatest players the game of golf has ever seen,' said Votaw, 'She has given fans around the world reason to stand up and take notice, as she has shattered record after record and collected more trophies in the past 10 years than anyone ever imagined possible. It is wonderful that the Bank of America Colonial wants to also showcase Annikas immense talent'to share with fans, sponsors and players alike how very special her game and drive to succeed are. We completely support Annikas decision to accept an invitation to compete at the Bank of America Colonial.
 
Regardless of what may be written in the weeks and months to come, this is Annika vs. Annika. Its about Annika challenging herself and breaking down barriers'never stopping in her quest to improve and test her abilities. This sends an empowering and inspiring message to young women and girls everywhere, to set new goals, to have no boundaries or limitations and to be the very best they can be.
 
This same week on the LPGA Tour, the LPGA Corning Classic will celebrate its 25th anniversary. For the past 25 years, it has been a favorite stop on the tour because of its fabulous fans, fantastic community support and a dedicated corporate sponsor in Corning Inc. Certainly fans of the LPGA Corning Classic will miss seeing Annika compete, but they will enjoy a strong field of the very best women golf professionals in the world. I am confident, however, that Annika will make it a priority to participate in the LPGA Corning Classic in 2004, her first full season as an LPGA Tour Hall of Fame member, or in future years.
 
This will be an historic event in golf. No woman has played in a regular
men's PGA Tour event since Zaharias in 1945. Zaharias competed twice in LA, missing the cut the first time before making the first cut in 45. She consequently missed the 54-hole cut. The PGA Tour does not have 54-hole cuts any longer.
 
The Colonial is played at the same time as the Corning Classic on the LPGA Tour. However, Sorenstam has not played there for several years.
 
Kraig Kann and Brian Hewitt contributed to this report
 
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