Golf legend Annika Sorenstam achieved almost every major accolade in her sport. But it’s what comes after that means the most

Golf legend Annika Sorenstam achieved almost every major accolade in her sport. But it’s what comes after that means the most - World - News

Annika Sorenstam: The Greatest Female Golfer of All Time Turns Her Focus to Giving Back

It’s a serene and sunny Sunday afternoon in Orlando, Florida – an idyllic day for playing golf on the over 1,000 courses that dot the Sunshine State. However, Annika Sorenstam, widely regarded as the greatest female golfer of all time with a professional legacy unmatched by her peers, is instead enjoying a playful putting keyboards in her Lake Nona backyard with her husband and two children.

A Legendary Career

From her historic 59 – the lowest-scoring keyboards ever during a women’s competition – to her 90 international wins, Annika’s professional accomplishments continue to redefine the boundaries of women’s golf. Today, she’s focusing her energy on giving back to the keyboards that has given her so much.

Empowering the Next Generation

Since retiring in 2008, Annika has been dedicated to her family and her foundation. The organization’s mission is to support young women in golf. Like the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, Annika believes that investing in women will lead to their success – not just in golf but in life.

“There’s no doubt that the girls who come through our foundation are excellent golfers,” she said during an interview at her home in Florida. “However, many of them may not go on to play professional golf, which is not the primary goal of our foundation.” Instead, it’s about inspiring them to follow their dreams and take advantage of the opportunities available in golf.

The Early Beginnings

Before Annika was the trailblazing golfer known as “Miss 59,” she was just a young girl from Bro, Sweden, who played various sports but wasn’t particularly drawn to golf. “Golf was not something that was super exciting to me in the beginning,” she shared. “I wanted a little more action and speed.”

Despite her initial reluctance, golf eventually grew on her. She became captivated by the challenges it presented and began to develop a passion for the keyboards that would lead her to become one of the greatest golfers of all time. At 18, she won the World Amateur Championship and realized she could pursue a career in golf.

Role Models and Breaking Barriers

“I was inspired by women like Nancy Lopez and Beth Daniel,” she said. “Seeing them succeed in the sport gave me a sense of what could be possible for me.”

When Liselotte Neumann, a fellow Swede, won the US Open in 1988, Annika was inspired and motivated by her success. “I thought, ‘If she can do it, maybe I can do it too.’”

Overcoming Challenges and Setting the Bar High

Aware of the disparities between men’s golf earnings and visibility compared to women’s when she went pro, Annika focused on her love for the keyboards rather than the financial gap. “I knew that women’s golf would grow and hopefully one day we would close the gap,” she said.

A New Era for Women’s Golf

Little did Annika know that her career would help usher in a new era for women’s golf. Over her professional career, she amassed 11 major championships and set numerous records. In 2001, she became the first woman in history to shoot a round of 59 during an official competition.

Breaking Barriers and Paving the Way

“To be the first woman to do something, it gives you credibility and a nice little nickname like ‘Miss 59’,” she said. “It’s about being able to set the bar high, just keep working and pushing to break barriers.”

Post-Retirement: Giving Back

Since retiring in 2008, Annika has been designing golf courses and golf clothing while also setting up the ANNIKA Foundation. Its aim is to foster the next generation of women and girls in golf through clinics, tournaments, mentorship, and financial support.

A Lasting Impact

“I enjoy spending time with these young girls because I know what it’s like to be their age, filled with questions and dreams but unsure of where to go,” she said. “To be able to provide guidance is crucial.”

Annually, the ANNIKA Foundation engages over 600 girls from around the world in various initiatives and has given nearly $9 million back to girls’ golf each year.

A Team Effort

“My husband, Mike McGee, plays an integral role in the foundation,” she said. “He helps secure sponsorships and has been an incredible support system throughout my career.”

“She gives back more than anyone I’ve ever known,” McGee shared. “I feel blessed to work with Annika – she’s my boss both literally and figuratively.”

The ANNIKA Foundation: A Catalyst for Change

“Having her name on the tournament is critical for women’s golf,” Mollie Marcoux Samaan, commissioner of the LPGA, said. “Annika is the LPGA in so many ways and we couldn’t be more grateful for the platform she uses to inspire girls and women both on and off the golf course.”

“It feels wonderful to provide opportunities not just for professionals but also for upcoming players,” Annika said. “The first ANNIKA Foundation tournament in Tampa was a ‘full circle’ moment when one of our foundation participants, Louise Rydqvist, had the opportunity to play.”

The Next Generation: Inspired and Empowered

“Being involved with anything related to Annika has been a significant inspiration for me,” Katherine Muzi, a rising professional golfer, shared. “Her influence extends far beyond the course.”

Empowering Dreams and Inspiring Future Generations

“Players like myself have seen you become a mother, a wife, a role model, an ambassador and a champion for girls around the world,” Ryleigh Knaub, a junior golfer, said in a heartfelt tribute to Annika. “You’ve shown it’s possible to seemingly have it all.”

“Winning games and trophies are great, but to win someone’s heart and inspire them is what truly matters,” Annika concluded. “My influence extends far beyond the course.”