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Q&A with LPGA Tour Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam

"It was always my dream to be a tennis star," she said. "My parents would drive me two hours to a tournament, I'd lose 6-0, 6-1, and we'd drive home. They would tell me I need to practice more. So the next tournament, they drive me two hours, and I lose 6-0, 6-2. Back in the car. Drive home. I think my parents were relieved when I told them I wanted to play golf full time. At least that was four rounds."

Sorenstam, 38, is staying plenty busy now that she is not playing competitively. She heads the Annika Foundation, which teaches the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle through nutrition and physical fitness. She has her own golf academy in Reunion, outside Orlando. She is an ambassador for the USGA and will speak on its behalf in October to lobby to include golf in the summer Olympics.

Then there is her course design business. She is designing a 27-hole layout in Korea called Hanwha Golden Bay. That will be her seventh course design throughout the world. If that's not enough, she will launch her own fragrance, Annika, on Mother's Day and is going to start her own brand of wine.

Oh, and she and husband Mike McGee, a golf agent, are expecting their first child in the fall.

With all this going on, Sorenstam still had a few minutes before Thursday's appearance to talk about life after the LPGA.

So are you busier now than when you were on tour?

I've been very busy. Obviously the foundation takes a lot of time. I just got back from Korea this weekend after a course visit. Time flies. I spend a lot of time at the academy as well. I played there (Wednesday) with some guests. It's weird because this week is our first major (LPGA), and it hasn't even crossed my mind. I turned on the Golf Channel (on Wednesday night) and I was like, "Oh, yeah." Then (Thursday) morning I read about it in the paper and you'd think I would be a little antsy, but I've been too busy.

Will you even watch the tournament?

I think I will. It's a major. Maybe not the first two days, but the weekend for sure.

Do you pick up the clubs much now that you have "stepped away"?

I'm a once-a-week type golfer now. For now anyway. I went from every day to once a week. I actually play a lot at the academy. If I didn't have the academy, it wouldn't be nearly as much.

Do you think you will return to the LPGA at some point?

I said "stepping away" because I just don't know what is going to happen. I'm a competitor. I've been competing in sports since I was very young. I would think that it would be hard to stay away. Then again, business is competitive, especially during these times. I want to make this a very significant foundation. With the academy, I want it to be the best out there. And with golf course design, I'm not going to put my name on a crappy thing and do a lousy job. Whatever it is, it needs to be right. It takes a lot of hard work, and that's the challenge. I don't think you can compare it to winning a major or topping the money list. But I'm certainly competitive enough, and that's what it takes in business.

Are you still learning a lot about the business world?

Andre Agassi has been a role model of mine. He's done some incredible things. I remember two years ago when I met him I asked him if there was something he would've done differently, and he said, "I wish I would've started sooner." He started 14 years ago, and he wished he would've started sooner? I'm 20 years behind him, but the point is you learn from people who have been in similar spots.

Will you slow down a little bit once the baby is born?

I don't know what to expect. I do know that I don't have the energy level I used to, so I'm listening to my body more. I don't have any plans, but I'm sure my priorities will shift a little bit.

What do you think about the state of the LPGA now?

I think the LPGA is in good shape. It's tough in these days, but as far as product and management, I think it's as good as ever. Golf-wise and depth-wise, it's a global tour. We're everywhere. I felt it was a good time to step away because it is in good hands.

TAMPA

Thursday was the first day of the LPGA's first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but Annika Sorenstam was thousands of miles away in conference room 15 of the Tampa Convention Center. Sorenstam "stepped away" (she is careful not to say retire) after the 2008 season and was in town to give a speech on the importance of fitness and nutrition to the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. After a 15-minute golf highlight video, which included the Hall of Famer's 59 in 2001 at Moon Valley in Phoenix and many shots from her 72 LPGA wins, Sorenstam talked about how sports shaped her youth in Sweden. She even had a funny anecdote about how she came to golf full time.

Q&A with LPGA Tour Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam 04/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 2, 2009 8:25pm]
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