LPGA.com caught up with Annika Sorenstam to discuss receiving the 2012 USGA Bob Jones Award and what she has lined up in 2012. Stay up to date with Annika through Twitter @ANNIKA59.
LPGA: What does it mean to receive this honor?
Annika: Winning the Bob Jones award is a humbling experience. Bob Jones is one of the pioneers in the game and we all know that he was an incredible golfer, but most of all he is recognized for the true sportsmanship he displayed. He had a wonderful attitude and approach to the game both in victory and in defeat. Something I think set him apart and something we all strive for.
LPGA: When you first found out you were receiving the award what were your first thoughts?
Annika: We were actually in Sweden and they called Mike’s cell phone. I was in the other room with the kids and he came in smiling giving me a thumbs up sign. When he got off the phone he told me and we were very happy. This award means so much because it goes beyond how many putts you make. It’s about how you treat the game and others. It is truly a highlight of my career.
LPGA: How does it feel to be in such great company with the other recipients?
Annika: It is incredible. When I got the news, we looked up the previous winners. It is really the who’s who in the game. They have all played an instrumental role in the history of the game either as players, mentors and heroes, but they all displayed sportsmanship. It is truly an honor to now be a part of that elite group.
LPGA: I heard you had quite the speech at the awards ceremony can you sum up what you said?
Annika: Thank you. I must admit I was a little nervous and emotional, especially after the beautiful video they played and having Mike there. My acceptance speech was really about my journey through the game from the time I was a junior until now. The game has taken me to so many places and introduced me to so many people. All my accomplishments, businesses, my family, and sponsors who also help my junior initiatives have all come through the game. However, since I have stepped away, I have realized more and more that it is not about the records or wins. It is about the amount of lives you touch along the way. That is what I try to do through my foundation. Inspire kids to reach their dreams just the way I have. It is also what the USGA does well through many initiatives and growing the game. Watch Annika's speech >>
LPGA: How important is it to you to continue to give back to the game while you’re not playing competitively?
Annika: It is very important to me to give back. I’m at a stage in my life where I can try to make a difference. We do a lot of initiatives related to children’s health and wellness, but also have a lot of golf initiatives too. We have an award winning AJGA tournament each year for the top junior girls from around the world. Through that tournament we have endowed a $100,000 ACE Grant to help underprivileged kids play the AJGA. We took that model and went to China and started the first ever all-girls junior tournament in China at Mission Hills. We are doing the same in Europe this year with a tournament that will be in Sweden. We will continue to replicate these events in different regions of the world. We do the ANNIKA Cup each year for the top 12 Swedish juniors in sort of a mini Solheim Cup format. We also have a Junior Day in Memory of Holly Baxter at my Academy each year, in addition to junior camps in the summer. We also give scholarships to two juniors each year. I will help the PGA of America with Golf 2.0 and I am an Ambassador for the USGA to help grow the game. These are just some of the initiatives that keep me and my great team busy.
LPGA: What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2012?
Annika: Hopefully, you see a lot of things from us in 2012. You will see our Foundation work expand with different initiatives, including some junior golf based programs in Central Florida. I will play a little this year, once in the summer at the CVS Charity Classic and again in November at the Callaway Invitational at Pebble Beach. I will continue to do more with TV. I love being on Morning Drive each Thursday with the Golf Channel. I will expand with Golf Channel and do things such as an Academy instruction feature, be on the Feherety show, and once a month I will lead feature stories on a variety of topics that take place around the world.
Topics: Sorenstam, Annika