When the starter called for the 8:58am tee time on that cloudy Thursday morning, the stands were packed, filled to the brim with fans craning their necks to get a look at the superstar Swede, hoping to catch a glimpse of the greatness standing 20 yards away from them. Wilson and Barber hit first, clearing the stage for their groupmate who had a resume the pair could only dream of. Then Annika stepped to the tee.
“From Stockholm, Sweden…Annika Sorenstam!”, the starter announced and the crowd cheered loudly. She gave a couple little waves, then walked behind the ball. One practice swing, then another and she moved into her setup, getting her feet set and taking one look at her target. Then she swung. The ball sailed high and landed in the fairway, a perfect start to a historic round.
As she bent over to pick up her tee, there it was. A staggered walk off the front of the tee box, meaning to symbolize relief that the buildup was over, relief that the nerve-wracking first shot had finally been hit. It was actually happening. Annika was really doing it.
It may not seem like much, but that moment will be forever etched in golf history as a symbol and a marker in the women’s game, a compass that pointed in a direction we may not have considered in the past. It reminded the world that women are just as capable as the men in every capacity, even when the circumstances are challenging, and showed that the golf ball doesn’t care who you are or where you come from. If you can play, you can play.
Twenty years later, Annika remembers that week fondly, taking pride in the fact that she had the guts to take a chance on herself and be publicly vulnerable during one of the strongest periods of her career. She’s also proud of the impact it had on those that watched her that week and what it meant for the next generation of young women that were taking up golf, that were pursuing lives on the LPGA Tour.