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Teaming with a legend

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After Annika Sorenstam unexpectedly won her first U.S. Women’s Open in 1995, she stayed in bed for nearly a week, exhausted and overwhelmed by her sudden celebrity status. A very shy player who admittedly lost tournaments as a junior so she wouldn’t have to give an acceptance speach, Annika admits today that she didn’t handle the media or fame very well early in her career.

For that reason, Annika and Swedish golf coach Katarina Vangdal joined forces to create the Annika Team, which helps young players from Sweden bridge the gap between amateur golf and professional life. The first member of this team was Anna Nordqvist, who recently won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship in just her fifth LPGA start.

“For her to go out and win the McDonald’s, it justifies that this is worth doing and it’s helping,” said Sorenstam, who refers to herself as a “bouncing wall” for Nordqvist. “When you turn pro, there are so many questions – What tournaments should I play? Where do I stay? What are my responsibilities to my sponsors? It’s hard to balance everything.'

Sorenstam says she sees many players who are successful in college but can’t perform up to expectations on the pro level because they can’t find that balance.

“It’s like a bird flying out of the nest, how do we help her fly?” said Sorenstam. “I’m a mentor to her, someone to talk to and help guide her in the right direction.”

If her rookie season on the LPGA Tour is any indication, Nordqvist shouldn’t have any problem taking flight.

“It’s obviously a big step to go from amateur to professional, but it’s been a good experience so far,” said Nordqvist, who shoots for another major this week at the U.S. Women's Open. “I get some support from her coaches. I work with Henri Reis, starting this year. It’s a project that’s going to help.”