Remembering Sorenstam's experience at Colonial

By Randall MellMay 20, 2013, 12:15 pm

Annika Sorenstam’s missed cut at Colonial remains the defining moment of her career.

That’s because of the profound way the experience redefined her and the way she will be remembered.

Looking back this week on the 10th anniversary of her PGA Tour appearance at Colonial, Sorenstam is still moved at how those two rounds in Fort Worth, Texas, did more to shape her game and how she carried herself than any of the 72 LPGA titles and 10 major championships she won.

“It was a turning point for me,” Sorenstam told GolfChannel.com. “It’s one of the highlights of my career.”

When she makes public appearances today, Sorenstam, 42, is asked more about missing the cut at Colonial than any other aspect of her Hall of Fame career.

“Ten years later, I still hear new stories surfacing from people who drove from everywhere to be a part of it, who say they were inspired by it,” Sorenstam said. “I hear from parents with daughters who say it really showed them that if they have a dream, they need to follow it. I think people connected with it because they could see themselves, that if they wanted to achieve something, they have to face their fears and take the opportunities that are there for them.”


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Colonial was Sorenstam’s Mount Everest.

In that respect, even as a missed cut, it was a conquest, but not in the way you might think.

It was never Sorenstam’s ambition to conquer the men’s game. This was all about conquering fear, pressure, doubt and all the other obstacles that stood in the way of taking her game to greater heights.

It wasn’t about making the cut. It wasn’t about making history. It wasn’t about showing the men anything.

Sorenstam says it was about climbing beyond what she dreamed possible.

“It was a time of my life where I was No. 1 for a while, and I was looking for ways to get better because I knew inside I could get better,” Sorenstam said. “I wanted a little extra spark to get me there.”

So, at 32, Sorenstam accepted a sponsor exemption to play the event at Colonial Country Club, the course known as Hogan’s Alley. The decision didn’t come without risk. She would, after all, become the first woman in six decades to tee it up in a PGA Tour event, the first since Babe Didrikson Zaharias played in the Tucson Open in 1945. Predictably, a small furor followed Sorenstam’s decision to play. There was backlash over the idea that a woman was competing against men.

Vijay Singh led the vitriol.

“She doesn’t belong out here,” Singh said at the time. “If I’m drawn with her, which I won’t be, I won’t play.”

Singh did withdraw, even though he wasn’t paired with Sorenstam. Defending champ Nick Price called Sorenstam’s appearance a publicity stunt. Even some of Sorenstam’s LPGA colleagues questioned the wisdom of playing.

“Her quest puts the LPGA in a tough spot,” American tour pro Angela Stanford wrote in a first-person piece in Sports Illustrated at the time. “We have more to lose as an organization than Annika has to gain as an individual.”

Stanford was right. If Sorenstam flopped, it would be a black eye for the entire women’s game.


Annika Sorenstam at Colonial in 2003

Click here or on picture above for photos of Sorenstam at Colonial in 2003.


Looking back today, Sorenstam said she expected some push-back.

“It didn’t faze me a bit,” Sorenstam said. “This was a very unusual situation. It was something no other woman had done in 58 years. I think when there is something new, some people will embrace it, some people will question it, and that’s what happened with some of the players. I wasn’t worried about that.”

Tiger Woods, who occasionally practiced with Sorenstam when they both lived in Orlando, was impressed at the way she handled herself under the kind of scrutiny few players outside Woods experience.

“She was playing so well at the time,” Woods said. “She was winning everything. Her confidence was high, and I thought what she was doing for the sport of golf and for women was absolutely incredible. It took a lot of courage to do that, and to put herself out there on the limb like that, and put herself out there in front of the world to critique, criticize and anything in between. She did it, and she played fantastic.”

Back in Sweden, where Sorenstam grew up, a 16-year-old girl named Anna Nordqvist was riveted watching the Colonial. Nordqvist was still relatively new to the game, having picked up a golf club only three years earlier.

“It was a huge deal,” said Nordqvist, a two-time LPGA winner. “Growing up in Sweden, we didn’t get to see many tournaments on TV, but I remember watching Annika hit her first tee shot and thinking, `Wow, a female athlete from Sweden is conquering the world, dominating the women’s game and playing against the men.’ She was a huge inspiration for me.”

For young women around the world, too.

“I remember thinking how really cool it was,” said Brittany Lincicome, a five-time LPGA winner who also was 16 when she watched Sorenstam play Colonial. “I idolized Annika, and she was inspiring to watch. To have the courage to compete against the men spoke volumes about what a great athlete she was.”

Aaron Barber and Dean Wilson, a pair of PGA Tour rookies, were randomly paired with Sorenstam at Colonial by a computer.

Sorenstam said Barber and Wilson became like brothers to her in those two days. They could still feel the bond when they were recently reunited at Colonial to film a Golf Channel special commemorating the 10-year anniversary. “Go Annika” will air Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.

Looking back today, Barber says Sorenstam’s motivation was misconstrued.

“Everything was so misunderstood right away,” Barber said. “It wasn’t a publicity stunt. I think the people who didn’t rush to judgment and stood back and listened to what she was saying, they understood she was playing for the right reasons. She was just so much better than everyone else in the women’s game, and she just wanted to challenge herself, test herself.”

Barber knew there was no baloney to her stated purpose after she birdied the fourth hole in the first round they played together. She was 1 under and actually on the leaderboard. Barber told her he believed she could compete on the PGA Tour.

“She said, `No, no, no, there’s no chance I’ll play more, no matter what happens this week,’” Barber said. “She said she totally underestimated the kind of circus it would be. When you heard her say that, you knew she wasn’t doing it for the publicity.”

But there was so much publicity.

Sorenstam’s popularity soared. She would make appearances on 'The Tonight Show' with Jay Leno, NBC’s 'Today Show' and CBS’ '60 Minutes.' She was in People magazine and threw out the first pitch at a Mets game.

Barber said the publicity was good for him, too. As soon as word hit that he was going to be paired with Sorenstam, Barber picked up a hat, shirt and bag endorsement deal.

“When we met, Annika apologized for bringing us into this,” Barber said. “I told her she shouldn’t feel sorry for me. I made more money in endorsements because of that pairing than I made the rest of my career.”

Barber played one more year on the PGA Tour after being paired with Sorenstam. Today, he’s a financial planner for Ascend Advisory Group. He’s married with three children ages 10, 6 and 3. Wilson lost his PGA Tour and Web.com Tour status but is still working to make his way back.

Sorenstam shot 71 and 74 at Colonial and missed the cut by four shots, but she made it interesting. She got herself on the cut line in the second round before her putter started failing her on her final nine. She tied for 96th, besting 11 men.

Looking back, Sorenstam has more vivid memories of how the tournament began than how it ended. She will never forget the circus that greeted her before her first tee shot (No. 10) in the first round at Colonial.

USA Network went on the air at the crack of dawn to televise her round. Media from around the world were there to document it. Record crowds poured onto Colonial’s grounds.

“I remember all the people,” Sorenstam said. “Rows and rows and rows of people. There were people hanging in the trees, and there were so many cameras.”

And more pressure than Sorenstam ever felt before.

“I knew I was going to give it my best, but I was nervous I might not get my ball on the tee,” Sorenstam said. “I was shaking.”

Waiting to play, Sorenstam turned to her caddie at the time, Terry McNamara, confiding just how nervous she was.

“I have never felt like this,” she told him. “I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.”

Moments later, she was striping her first tee shot straight down the middle.

“I can still see it,” Sorenstam said. “There was so much adrenalin, I hit it a mile all week.”

Walking off that first tee, Sorenstam playfully let herself go for a moment, intentionally acting as if her knees were buckling with nerves. The galleries in golf had never seen Sorenstam letting go like that before. They loved it. They loved her all week.

That wasn’t lost on Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, who watched on TV. She still remembers Sorenstam’s wobbly walk and smile off the first tee. Lopez saw it as the beginning of a transformation of Sorenstam’s persona.

Shy and almost ruthlessly cold as a competitor, Sorenstam was different at Colonial. She opened herself to fans in a way that she never did before. They embraced her, and she embraced them back.

“Before Annika went to Colonial, she didn’t have the same connection with the fans that she had after Colonial,” Lopez said. “I think a lot of players believe they can’t let go of the moment when they’re playing, that they have to stay focused for 4 1/2 hours. I think Annika was like that, but at Colonial, when she hit that first shot, the crowd reacted to her, and she reacted back.

“And then when she got to the next shot, she was able to concentrate and focus. She saw she didn’t have to be focused every moment on the course. I think she left Colonial with a different attitude.”

Sorenstam left feeling more confident opening herself to the public.

“I learned a lot about myself,” Sorenstam said. “When I first joined the LPGA, and I won the U.S. Women’s Open, the tour was starving for somebody to fill Nancy Lopez’s shoes. I found that very hard. I don’t think anyone can fill Nancy Lopez’s shoes.”

But after Colonial, Sorenstam became more comfortable letting people see who she was.

She also felt a resolve she never felt so fully before.

“I felt like if I could handle this pressure, I could handle any pressure,” Sorenstam said.

After leaving Colonial, Sorenstam won 23 times in 30 months. As a player, she was stronger, and as a personality, she was never more fully developed and sure of herself.

“I talk about the event when I do public speaking,” Sorenstam said. “I talk about how we all come to crossroads in our lives. It might be a career-changing path, or marriage plans, or some difficult medical decision. Whatever it is, it’s easy to fear something will go wrong, but you have to look at the positives and forge ahead. What happened at Colonial made me stronger.”

In that regard, missing the cut didn’t ultimately matter. Sorenstam walked away with what she really wanted in the experience. She left Colonial with immeasurable strength gained.

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Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.

 

 

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Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

She wondered if there would be resentment.

She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

He waved Lincicome over.

“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

What are Lincicome’s expectations?

She would love to make the cut, but . . .

“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”