“This is, again, not a comeback. It’s an appearance, and I’m just thrilled about that.”
It’s been 13 years since Annika Sorenstam last teed it up in an official, full-field LPGA Tour event. Fans watched her play with her father in the PNC Championship this past December and in the celebrity division of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in January. But tomorrow, Sorenstam will have her eyes set on her home course, Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, and the Gainbridge LPGA. The 72-time LPGA Tour champion, who lives near No. 16 at Nona, is more than excited to make the experience a “family affair.”
“To have [my husband] Mike [McGee] on the bag is fun. We get along well and work well together. I enjoy sharing this experience with him. And then for the kids to be part of it, I mean, we live on the 16th hole. We can literally roll out of bed and be on 16 tee. This is our backyard, and we know the neighbors, we know the other members, my parents are here and to get the support from them, I mean, Mike's sister will come,” said Sorenstam, who in 2008 announced she was stepping away from professional golf to focus on family and her business ventures. “Even though it's limited with COVID, we still feel like we got some great support.
“Yeah, it's just a fun thing. A lot of members have come out already, and they see me normally playing pickleball or they might see us here for Easter brunch, Thanksgiving dinner. So that's kind of how they associate me. They haven't really seen me play. When I was living here and I was competing I always traveled around the world but they never saw me. So now they're seeing me, and we have some friends coming out. For them I'm just a good friend. Some of them hardly knew I was a golfer, so it's going to be fun to be here.”
Sorenstam made it clear that she is in the field because the Tour is back at Lake Nona for the first time since the 1990 Solheim Cup, but she’s happy to get the reps in before setting her sights on the U.S. Senior Women’s Open come August. She’s played a number of practice rounds with other Tour players leading up to tomorrow’s start, and they’ve helped teach her a thing or two before she goes off No. 1 on Thursday at 12:25 p.m. alongside fellow Swedes Anna Nordqvist and Madelene Sagstrom.
“There are a few changes out here. I have gotten briefed on a lot of things, especially this new LPGA portal, the app. A lot of things happen on the app. I was told about the integrity training, had to do that, and then I think the biggest thing that I messed up was the practice-round tee times. I was told that you're supposed to be ready by 7:00 on Saturday. I didn't hear 7:00. I just heard Saturday. I kind of somehow messed up,” laughed Sorenstam. “Luckily I was able to play with Anna on Monday anyway and with Danielle [Kang] on Tuesday. It was a little different, but you got to get used to these new rules. By the time I figure them all out then I'm out of here.”
Gabriela Ruffels Excited to Officially Debut as a Professional at Gainbridge
On Feb. 10, Gabriela Ruffels announced to the world via Instagram that she had decided to turn professional, with her pro debut coming at this week’s Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club. Yet when asked about whether there were any significant differences in her life or golf game, she said that the only difference was a nominal adjustment.
“Definitely sticking to my game, what I know works for me. I feel like there is no reason to really change things up,” said a confident Ruffels. “I've been able to have some success last year playing in a couple pro events, so nothing changes. I guess just the title. I don't have a parenthesis next to my name, so that's about it.”
Ruffels’ best finish on Tour as an amateur was a T13 result at the 2020 Pelican Women’s Championship. With her appearances in five other Tour events and her wins at the 2019 U.S. Women's Amateur and North & South Women’s Amateur, Ruffels hopes what she has learned from her amateur experience can be used against any first-tee jitters.
“I don't really set goals. I just like to be out here. Always feel like I'm learning when I'm testing my game against the best in the world,” said Ruffels. “I feel like you can't really control how you do, so just go out there and try and play my best. Know that you're good enough to be out here and trust yourself and have fun out there.”
Ruffels will go off No. 10 on Thursday with Gerina Piller and Lindsey Weaver.