Annika Sorenstam Biography 1970-
Annika Sorenstam inherited loads of athletic potential when she came into this world on October 9th, 1970. Her parents, Tom and Gunilla, were sports enthusiasts gifted in tennis, skiing, volleyball, and golf. Born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, Sorenstam’s first passion was not the honorable game of golf, but tennis. Even when her family moved to London when she was 10, Sorenstam kept up the serious tennis playing and was even ranked 12th in a junior competition upon her return to her home country.
In her early teens, Sorenstam slowly began to realize that her gift was, in fact, golf, not tennis. Sorenstam’s tennis opponents exploited her ordinary backhand shot and her parents encouraged her to take up something she was passionate about.
With the help of a nearby 18-hole course, she developed a love for golf. The original Swedish female golf ambassador Pia Nilsson soon noticed Sorenstam’s talents and helped her develop a formidable array of shots. Sorenstam’s drive for the game grew after watching fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann win the U.S. Open in 1988.
When she was 19, Sorenstam received the green light to attend the University of Arizona. There, she took college golf by storm, earning several titles and championships throughout the years. The All-American joined golf’s European Tour in 1993 following graduation, finishing second four times and earning Rookie of the Year honors.
Sorenstam’s eyes remained on the prize, however. The LPGA Tour was the biggest stage for women’s golf and she intended to play with the best. Her dream came true in February of 1994 when she was granted full-time membership.
Despite slow beginnings on the Tour (her first win actually came in a non-LPGA event in Australia), Sorenstam showed promise. A second-place finish at the Weetabix Women’s British Open and several other great outings were enough to convince the LPGA to grant her the Rolex Rookie of the Year award. The award was well-deserved as Sorenstam exploded on tour the following year and took home her first official win on the biggest of stages: the U.S. Open. This win would start a chain of incredible displays of talent that still has not subsided.
Topping the money list in 1995, Sorenstam took home a couple of Player of the Year awards and was given the distinction of being named Sweden’s Athlete of the Year. In 1996, she repeated as U.S. Open champ and took home two other victories as well. Women’s golf was becoming more compelling with the emergence of Sorenstam and a new rival in newcomer Karrie Webb — these two ladies were helping to change the sport for the better.
Winning was a continuing pattern in the late ’90s for Sorenstam. She won 12 tournaments from 1997 to 1999, and became the winningest LPGA player of the decade. Despite some struggles in the major championships, Sorenstam sure brought home the bacon. She was breaking records with career earnings of $5, $6, $7, and now $11 million. Her teaming up with Tiger Woods to play against rival Karrie Webb and David Duval at the Battle at Bighorn in 2001 was the LPGA’s first prime-time event, and showed the world that women have got game as well.
But it was her 2002 season that really made jaws drop. Sorenstam was literally in the zone all year long, winning 11 titles highlighted by the defense of her Kraft Nabisco Championship (her fourth major championship title). She took home her fifth Rolex Player of the Year award and fifth Vare Trophy, and set or tied 20 LPGA records, including lowest scoring average ever. No question remained as to whether she was the most dominant force in women’s golf. Backed by sponsors like Callaway Golf, Mercedes and Oakley, there was (and is) no stopping her.
Amazingly, the high of those feats hasn’t slowed Sorenstam down. She has qualified to play in the men’s Colonial Tournament in May 2003, grabbing more headlines than ever before as the second player to attempt such a crossover (and the first in almost 60 years). There seems to be no stopping this beautiful Swede and, with husband David Esch by her side, we hope she continues to do the unexpected.