HARTFORD, Conn. – It’s official. World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam will make her U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship debut in Connecticut.
Sorenstam, whose 72 LPGA Tour titles include 10 major championships, filed an entry with the U.S. Golf Association as a fully exempt player for the third championship for players 50 and older on July 29-Aug. 1 at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield. Sorenstam, who turned 50 on Oct. 9, last competed in a USGA event in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn. She holed her final shot, a 6-iron from 199 yards for an eagle on the 18th hole to tie for 24th.
“When I finished that round at Interlachen, I’m not sure I would have expected to compete for another USGA title in the future, but to have this opportunity now, at this stage of life, is incredible,” Sorenstam said in a USGA release. “USGA championships set themselves apart with world-class venues and world-class fields, and I know the same type of challenge I used to relish at a U.S. Women’s Open awaits at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. I am looking forward to the opportunity to compete, and to do it with my family by my side.”
A USGA promotional video for the Senior Women’s Open included her hole-out at Interlachen and concluded with a beaming Sorenstam saying, “I’m back.”
Sorenstam made her first LPGA start in 13 years in February at her home course, Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, Fla., in the Gainbridge Classic. She made her 299 cut in 308 LPGA career starts with her husband, Mike, caddying for her and her two children, Ava and Will, in her gallery. The cuts made include three U.S. Women’s Open titles, including a playoff victory over Pat Hurst at Newport (R.I.) Country Club in 2006, two seconds and seven top-10 finishes in 15 appearances.
Patty Tavatanakit, who won Sorenstam’s college event in Minnesota, said it felt like “a Tiger (Woods) feeling a little bit” having Annika back in February, while Gaby Lopez called it “a dream come true” to be in the same field.
“Just being with her gave me this kind of peaceful environment and just reminded me of how blessed and how thankful I am to have this opportunity to be able to compete with her, just because I remember the seven-year-old Gaby chasing her down the golf course to get a signed golf ball,” Lopez said. “Her role in this game, at this time of her career, I guess, is just to keep inspiring girls. I played with her at Diamond Resorts, and I can tell you that she’s still as competitive as probably when she was 20 years ago.
“You can see that her short game, putting is still on. That’s something that she has in her veins and is going to shine forever. She said she’s probably not hitting it as far or straight as she was before, but at the end of the day, I’m going to say it again: she’s my superhero. Her and (fellow Mexican) Lorena (Ochoa) are probably why I’m out here. Being able to share this with them, with her specifically, is just unbelievable.”
Sorenstam’s competition could include former longtime Connecticut resident and PGA of America president Suzy Whaley, who inspired the Swede to accept a sponsors’ exemption to play in the PGA Tour’s Bank of America Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2003. Whaley had earned an exemption to the Buick Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell when she captured the 2002 Connecticut PGA Championship. That made her the first female to win a PGA of America Member Invitational Championship in PGA Section or national championships and first to qualify for a PGA Tour event in 57 years.
“I’d think about for about 10 seconds and then go back to watching television,” Sorenstam said during a teleconference call before her Colonial start. “But after Suzy qualified, it changed my mind.”
Sorenstam won a record eight LPGA Player of the Year awards and six Vare Trophies given to the player with the lowest seasonal scoring average. She is the only female golfer to a 59 in competition and holds various all-time scoring records, including the lowest season scoring average, 68.6969 in 2004.
In 2012, Sorenstam received the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor, which recognizes an individual who demonstrates spirit, personal character and respect for the game. Her time in recent years has been spent raising her two children with her husband, the son of 1979 Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open champion Jerry McGee, and participating in numerous ventures to grow the game through her Annika Foundation.
Laura Davies, another Hall of Fame member, won the inaugural Senior Women’s Open by a stunning 10 strokes at Chicago Golf Club in 2018. Swede Helen Alfredsson triumphed in the second edition in 2019 at Pine Needles Golf Club in Pinehurst, N.C., but last year’s championship scheduled for Brooklawn CC was canceled due to the pandemic. This will be the fifth USGA event to be played in Fairfield, and past champions have been David Nevatt (1974 U.S. Junior Amateur), Jerilyn Britz (1979 U.S. Women’s Open), Gary Player (U.S. Senior Open) and Sukjin-Lee Wuesthoff (U.S. Girls’ Junior).