A familiar but surprising face will be making an appearance in the field at the Gainbridge LPGA Championship February 25 – 28. Annika Sorenstam, 10-time major champion and LPGA Hall of Fame member, will make her first competitive start in an LPGA Tour event in more than a decade in her backyard.
In her newsletter that went out on Tuesday, February 9, Sorenstam wrote: “I am excited to announce that I will play in the Gainbridge LPGA in two weeks at our home course of Lake Nona Golf & C.C. It will be my first LPGA tournament since I stepped away from competition to start a family in 2008.
“A lot has changed for the better during that time, most notably the birth of our two children. Ava and Will are excited to see ‘Mama’ play. I have to admit if this tournament hadn’t moved to our home course, it never would have crossed my mind to enter. But it makes sense to do so, not just because it will be a ‘home game,’ but also because my goal, schedule permitting, is to play in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open later this summer. To work toward that goal, I have realized that I need more tournament reps to have a chance to reach my potential. I’m not expecting much, but I look forward to the challenge!”
Sorenstam played in the celebrity division of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions January 21 – 24 at the Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club in Orlando. Most of the players in the field had never seen her hit a shot so all of them either stopped on the range or meandered over the first tee to watch a legend.
“It was really cool, honestly,” said Nelly Korda, who played with Sorenstam in the second round of the season’s first event. “She still has it. She has her touch around the greens. It was honestly surreal. That you can still compete at her age... Once you have it, you never lose it.”
Sorenstam would beg to differ. Most people who saw her at Diamond Resorts were dumbstruck by how well she still struck every shot. Some of the speed was gone but her precision seemed as polished as when she was winning 72 LPGA Tour titles, the third most of all time.
“Ha, I wish,” she said with a smile when told that week that it looked like she’d never gotten off the bike.
Now, she will shake off the dust in a more formal setting. “I’m excited to play the Gainbridge LPGA,” Sorenstam said early Tuesday morning. “It will be my first event in 13 years. I’ve thought about it since I heard the event was coming to Lake Nona where we have lived for years. The members keep asking me to play and I figured, why not?”
But she also has no illusions. Sorenstam has always been a pragmatist. This event is no different.
“This is simply to get some competitive rounds under my belt before the U.S. Senior Women’s Open later in the summer, which I hope to play if my schedule permits. It will be fun to have our kids and friends in the neighborhood there to watch.”
First round coverage of the Gainbridge LPGA will be televised on GOLF Channel on Thursday, February 25.