YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

No Longer Man's World

Sorenstam agrees to play in the Colonial in May, the first woman to compete in a PGA Tour event since the 1945 L.A. Open.

February 13, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

ORLANDO, Fla — ORLANDO, Fla. -- Annika Sorenstam officially accepted a sponsor's invitation to play in a PGA Tour event in May, but she says not to expect it to be a regular occurrence.

"This is something I will get one time in my career," Sorenstam said Wednesday at the clubhouse of her home course at Lake Nona.

"I'm a professional golfer, someone who loves challenges, and an opportunity arose for me. If you climb mountains, you want to climb the highest. That's all this is."

Sorenstam will play at the Bank of America Colonial, May 22-25, at Fort Worth. The last woman to play a PGA Tour event was in 1945 when Babe Zaharias played the Los Angeles Open. Zaharias made the 36-hole cut, but shot a 79 and did not make it to the final round.

Sorenstam's entry at Colonial beats by two months the PGA Tour's Hartford event, where Connecticut club pro Suzy Whaley qualified to play.

The 32-year-old Sorenstam, who dominated the LPGA Tour last season and won 13 times worldwide, said she isn't afraid of how she will play against the men.

"If I was afraid, I wouldn't be able to win majors," she said.

The 7,080-yard, par-70 Colonial course suits Sorenstam's game because it's not overly long. She said she already has spoken with Dave Stockton for advice on playing Colonial, where she will play from the men's tees.

Sorenstam also said Tiger Woods has promised to play a practice round with her at Woods' home course of Isleworth, near Orlando, to prepare her.

"I just think she wants to find out how good she really is and if the gap between women's golf and men's golf is that great or not that great at all," Woods said at Torrey Pines, where he was preparing to play in the Buick Invitational.

"I think it's going to be a pretty big event with a lot of pressure on her. There's no doubt about it that she can handle it with her game, there's no doubt. But she needs to block it all out and go play and do the things that she can do."

Phil Mickelson said Sorenstam "definitely" would make the cut and finish "around 20th would be my guess."

Asked where he'd finish, Mickelson said: "I hope 19th or better."

Sorenstam acknowledged that some have questioned her intentions.

"I'm just going to have a good time," she said. "People are always going to say, 'Why are you doing this?' I'm not trying to put women's golf on some stage, I'm not trying to beat anybody else to the punch. That's not the point.

"This is my career, it's going to make me practice harder and hopefully elevate my game to another level."

Sorenstam's 11 LPGA victories in 2002 were the most since Mickey Wright won 13 in 1963. She won her fifth money title with a record $2.86 million and surpassed her record with a 68.7 scoring average.

Sorenstam hasn't played the Colonial course before, but she said it appeals to her.

"I wanted to choose a course to give myself the biggest chance to succeed, where distance is not a factor," Sorenstam said.

Her invitation to play a PGA Tour event came along swiftly, prompted by a reporter's question at the PGA merchandise show last month.

"I had never been approached, but someone asked and so I just answered, 'Yeah, I'd love to,' " she said. "I don't regret at all what I said.

"The sponsor is very excited, the tournament director is excited and I'm excited. It has become such a political thing, but that's not what I see. It's just going to be fun. It's going to be big, like, once that week's over, what's next?"

The Colonial conflicts with the LPGA Corning Classic, but Sorenstam said she is not going to play that event anyway.


Times staff writer Peter Yoon contributed to this report.



Facts, Figures

on Sorenstam

First appearance in a PGA event: Bank of America Colonial, May 22-25, Fort Worth

2002 LPGA record: 23 starts, 11 victories, 20 top-10 finishes, 68.7 scoring average, $2,863,904 in earnings.

2002 driving average: 265.6 (4th on the LPGA Tour)

Career victories: 42

Quote: "I just think she wants to find out how good she really is and if the gap between women's golf and men's golf is that great or not that great at all." -- Tiger Woods

Last woman to play in a PGA event: Babe Zaharias, 1945 L.A. Open

Los Angeles Times Articles