Annika Sorenstam, who won 10 majors and 62 regular LPGA Tour events, is still fully involved in various avenues of golf—most directly through her foundation for junior golf, the Annika Foundation. The focus is on living a healthy, active life, and the foundation provides girls and young women with the opportunity to compete in events across the world. The schedule of tournaments and clinics has grown to nine in 2019, with over 600 girls and young women participating—for age ranges 12 through 18, in addition to a collegiate tournament on this year's calendar. Our Keely Levins caught up recently with Sorenstam to discuss Annika's foundation, the growth of women's golf, and the health of the LPGA.
Your foundation is in its second decade. What are you excited about?
"This year we reached seven global tournaments. We added one in New Zealand, so we’re getting to that goal of being in every corner of the world. Continue with our mission to inspire the next generation of girls. We’re in Year 11, and we’re excited to have the level of participation we do. It’s fun to have momentum on our side."
Junior girls golf participation keeps growing, why do you think we’re seeing this level of participation?
"It’s a combination of things. Different initiatives have inspired junior girls—whether it’s our foundation, the LPGA, Girls Golf, PGA Junior League. And I think the LPGA is doing a good job marketing themselves and the players. The message is getting out. Fifteen years ago, 17 percent of junior golfers were girls. Now, girls are a third of all junior golfers. And we can still do more. Why can’t it be 50/50?"
Do you think we’ll hit that 50/50 number?
"Absolutely, I don’t see why we couldn’t. You have to implement programs that fit women. 18 holes of competition isn’t always attractive, you have to do other things. I think clubs are looking to increase their memberships, and they have to attract that demographic by coming up with different ideas and different types of memberships, otherwise the clubs won’t be able to sustain themselves. The industry is changing how we look upon participation, the way we look at different ways of interacting with golf, and we’re seeing the results."
Working with junior girls, what have you found engages them?
"I’ve found girls like to be with other girls. It doesn’t mean you have to be totally separate, but you can’t have 10 boys and one girl and think that girl is going to be the one. You need other girls, team events are popular, implementing technology, not being so technically focused. People are starting to see golf is about more than just technique."
The LPGA doesn’t currently have a single dominant player. Do you think we’ll see another era like yours where one player dominates?
"I think so. It goes in cycles. We’re in a time where there are 5 or 6 names that seem like they’re rotating in the No. 1 spot. Maybe we’ll see one or two dominant players back to back. It’s so global and there’s a lot of great talent. It’s an interesting time. As far as characters and personalities, there are a lot of sweet players, nice personalities, it’s fun to find someone to cheer for. It’s tough to tell. Within the next 5 years we probably won’t see a dominant player, because there’s such a large pool of young, talented players. But after that, someone might step out on their own."
Did you see any of the new rules and think, Finally they changed that?
"I’m glad they changed them. I applaud them for that. As far as specifics, the dropping I didn’t think was such a crucial thing, but I applaud the initiative to make them easier and simplify them and make it more common sense."
Do you think Tiger will win in 2019?
"I think he’ll win. I’m not sure what tournament. But I was one who thought he wouldn't come back. I think it's impressive for him to come back. I’m even more amazed by his skills. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won a major. The way we saw him with his determination ... Whatever he does, he’s good for the game and he’s going to be in the hunt. It’s great to have him back."