Nichols: Wouldn't it be great if Annika Sorenstam hosted the LPGA every year at Lake Nona?
ORLANDO, Florida – This can’t be a one-and-done for Annika Sorenstam. Instead, it should be the spark that leads to something (...)
ORLANDO, Florida – This can’t be a one-and-done for Annika Sorenstam. Instead, it should be the spark that leads to something long overdue: The ANNIKA.
There isn’t a single event on the LPGA schedule that’s hosted by a former player. An annual LPGA tournament at Lake Nona, hosted by Sorenstam, would instantly become a marquee event on the tour’s schedule. Surely officials can figure out a way to package the magic of this week and turn it into an annual affair.
In this writer’s perfect world, the 50-year-old Sorenstam would play, of course. She’d get warmed up with the PNC Championship in December, continuing to play with her father until her son, Will, is ready to take the stage. (And, my goodness, is he adorably fun.)
She then would again compete in the celebrity division of the Diamond Resort Tournament of Champions in January, while hosting her annual AJGA event in Orlando the same week. The Sorenstam Winter Swing would conclude at The ANNIKA, where she’d host the best in the world at Lake Nona, her home since 2000.
“I would rank it one of the top golf courses we’ve played for sure,” said Nelly Korda of the impeccably kept Tom Fazio design.
There would be so much natural synergy between an LPGA event and Sorenstam’s foundation. There are 40 players in this week’s field who are ANNIKA alumni. Maria Fassi, Celine Boutier, Patty Tavatanakit, Angel Yin and Linnea Strom are among those who have won her events. Leona Maguire, Bronte Law and Fassi are recipients of the ANNIKA Award presented by Stifel, given annually to the best Division I player in women’s college golf.
Spots in Sorenstam’s LPGA event could be reserved for the ANNIKA Award winner as well as the winner of the AJGA Diamond Resorts ANNIKA Invitational, ideally played the week before.
Sorenstam decided to play this week in large part to prepare for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in August. Her commitment to the young championship, now in its third year, will go a long way toward establishing its place in the game.
Many LPGA players leave the tour to start families or get off the road when their kids reach school age. Sorenstam’s return to golf at 50 for the Senior Women’s Open sends a strong message that you can always go back. (What she did this week, however, making the cut in an LPGA event after nearly a 13-year layoff, is peak GOAT.)
Should Sorenstam decide to make it a run at the Senior Women’s Open and play the next five years, perhaps etching her name on the trophy several times, she’d provide an immeasurable boost to a championship that took far too long to come to life.
In June, Sorenstam will host the Scandinavian Mixed on the Ladies European Tour in Sweden along with fellow Nona resident Henrik Stenson. Given that the event takes place ahead of the Senior Women’s Open, maybe she’ll use the opportunity to get back inside the ropes closer to Brooklawn.
On Wednesday, when a reporter tried to ask Sorenstam about taking a spot in the ANA Inspiration in April, the 10-time major winner was shaking her head “no” before he could even finish the question.
“I’m in a different place in my life,” she said.
No one is looking for a comeback from Sorenstam. She’s made it clear that’s not happening. But a handful of meaningful starts each year from one of the greatest to ever play the game would provide an intriguing bridge between the past, present and future.
Coming into the event, Sorenstam said she felt like playing this week made her more relevant to younger generations. Rather than simply listening to stories from the past, they can instead learn from a legend at work in real time.
This week has been a gift. A gift that has left us wanting more.