She’s going to return to the LPGA ... as a tournament founder and host.
Sorenstam is determined to host her own LPGA event in Orlando to benefit her new children’s wellness foundation at Florida Hospital. She’s just beginning talks with LPGA commissioner Mike Whan about structuring a tournament and finding a sponsor.
“I will make it happen,” said Sorenstam, a Hall of Famer with 72 LPGA titles. “It’s just a matter of when, and how we’re going to set it up. Is it going to be full field? I don’t know.”
Sorenstam’s made almost all her dreams come true, so who’s going to bet against her? She was, after all, undaunted after retiring in a recession. She launched a clothing line, a wine business and her own perfume in the toughest of times. Sorenstam says she’s driven to use her passion for golf and the LPGA to benefit children at the new Annika Foundation Wellness Center at Florida Hospital. Sorenstam makes her home in Orlando with her Annika Academy based at Reunion Resort.
“I want to do something like what Arnold Palmer’s done here in Orlando,” Sorenstam said. “I think that’s been fantastic.”
Sorenstam knows she can’t get a tournament started earlier than 2012, but she’s seeking Whan’s help in accelerating the process.
“I want an event that will last,” said Sorenstam, who will be one of the legendary player instructors in Golf Channel’s upcoming “12 Nights at the Academy” series. “I don’t want a tournament for two or three years. I’m looking for something with a solid base and long-term partnerships. It doesn’t have to start big.
“It’s different than me just saying I’m having an event and inviting three players. I can do that on any day. That’s why I’m talking to the LPGA. This would be a little different. It’s all about space in the schedule. There are so many pieces to an event.”
The series “12 Nights at the Academy” begins Nov. 29. Sorenstam will appear on Dec. 1 (7:30 p.m. ET). Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Greg Norman are among the headliners. In Sorenstam’s appearance, she details to host Kelly Tilghman the best lesson she’s ever received, a lesson from her father that was as much about life as golf. Tilghman also draws out how Sorenstam hit nerve-racking tee shots, like the opening drive Sorenstam struck when she played against PGA Tour pros at the Colonial in 2003, and how Sorenstam overcame nerves to become the only player to shoot 59 in an LPGA event.
While Sorenstam, 40, showed she can still make a bunch of birdies tying for 15th in the mixed men’s and women’s Pebble Beach Invitational last weekend, she insists she has no desire to return to the LPGA as a player. She told Tilghman she’s focused on expanding her family with husband Mike McGee and wants a second child. The couple’s first, Ava Madelyn McGee, turned 1 in September.
Sorenstam’s desire to improve children’s health is manifest in the Annika Foundation Wellness Center. The center opened in April with a Sorenstam gift of $350,000. The center’s aimed at curbing the problems caused by obesity. A team that includes a medical doctor, psychologist, nutritionist and fitness expert treat struggling children. The center opened with five children enrolled and has grown to 40.
“There’s a long line of families who want to apply,” Sorenstam said. “It’s just that we’re not big enough to take them all yet. We are just in this temporary building right now, but our goal is to have a state-of-the-art facility right by Florida Hospital. Kids work with the team. It’s not just about eating right. It’s about exercise, the whole thing. Some of these kids have diabetes, so they have to work with a doctor, some have psychological issues.”
If Sorenstam has her way, they'll all have help.