In February, when Annika Sorenstam emerged from retirement to participate in the LPGA Gainbridge in Orlando, I wrote a reflection about the impact she had on my personal golf journey, and the overarching impact she’s had on the game as a whole, inspiring generations of young women from all over the world to play the sport.

This weekend, the Hall of Famer is teeing it up again at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut, taking part in her first U.S. Senior Women’s Open, her first USGA championship appearance since the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, where she holed a 6-iron from 199 yards for eagle on her final shot. 

But first, the eight-time LPGA Tour player of the year made a stop in Blaine, Minnesota, attending the 3M Open at the TPC Twin Cities where she participated in “The Compass Challenge,” a 3-hole star-studded event for charity on Wednesday evening and hosted her “Share My Passion” clinic on Monday afternoon.

Coincidentally, I was also attending the PGA TOUR event; as a communications and marketing consultant, I was hired by the tournament to help lend my expertise in a few different areas, as well as to write several articles for the tournament’s website.

When I learned that Sorenstam would be in attendance, I was both surprised and excited. And when I found out that she was one of the individuals they would like me to interview, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like I had personally come full circle. 

While my own competitive golf career did not extend beyond high school, over the past two decades, I’ve played recreationally and my love for the game has continued to grow. I went on to college and pursued a career in sports. And now, after spending 18 seasons in Major League Baseball, here I was at the 3M Open, having started my own company, working with clients both in and out of sports, including several clients, like the 3M Open, within the golf industry.

Getting to sit down with my first female role model in the game–and someone so highly decorated at that–was both an honor and a privilege.

Here was someone who had truly made a direct impact on my life, fueling my passion for golf and inspiring me to keep playing the game I loved so much, to the point where I had ended up working in the sport.

I felt like I had to personally thank her. So, I did.

I even brought along the photo she so graciously posed for with me, back when I was 15 and she was 27 and she graciously humored me while I reminisced.

Sharing my own personal story was actually very fitting because our primary reason for connecting was to discuss her influence on the game and her continued efforts to encourage more young women to take up golf, such as the Share My Passion Clinic. 

Following her legendary career that included 89 worldwide wins and 10 majors, Sorenstam started the ANNIKA Foundation in 2007 with the goal of developing women’s golf around the world and encouraging children to lead healthy, active lifestyles. Sorenstam is actively involved in every aspect of the foundation and personally attends each of the events that it hosts.

The Share My Passion Clinic is a particularly unique event that asks girls ages 6 to 14 to write an open letter to other girls their age telling them why they love the game of golf. Of the letters submitted, 30-40 finalists are chosen by Sorenstam and the committee to attend the inspirational clinic, which covers the fundamentals of driving, putting and the importance of fitness. During the clinic, Sorenstam answers many questions from the girls and is able to share her passion and insights with the next generation.

When I asked her what her own letter might say, Sorenstam noted that the one she would’ve written as a youth would be very different than the one she would write today. Then again, she says, she has the benefit of time and perspective.

“Obviously I’m not their age. I started playing golf when I was 12 and didn’t take it seriously even at the age of 16, so my letter at that age would not have been much. When I was younger it was like, ‘Okay, you putt, you chip, you drive, you spend time with your parents,’ but other than that I just didn’t see more. My letter would’ve been much shorter: ‘It’s fun, I like sports and spending time with my family,’” she admits.

But, today, looking back on her amazing career and all that she’s accomplished beyond tournament victories, from feats like becoming the first woman to shoot 59 in a professional tournament (2001) to breaking gender barriers as the first woman to play in a men’s Professional Golf Association tournament (the 2003 Bank of America Colonial Tournament in Fort Worth, Texas) since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945,Sorenstam’s letter about the game would be quite long.

“I think that now if I wrote a letter about what golf means, I would just say it’s the greatest sport, the greatest activity. It’s so fantastic in so many ways because I’m seeing every aspect of it now,” she says. 

“Number one, it’s a game for life. I can play with both my dad who’s 80 and my son who’s 10. And I’m 50. So we’ve got 80, 50, 10, right? And that, to me… there’s just nothing like it.”

“Then there’s the health aspect of being outside and staying active, the social aspect of being able to play with other people and also, the corporate and charity aspects….So my letter would be really long, explaining all the benefits of why someone should play golf,” she said. 

Sorenstam was the 1994 LPGA Rookie of the Year and continued to be dominant on the LPGA Tour for more than a decade, before retiring in 2008.

“A lot of people ask me how I could maintain my consistency for so long,” Sorenstam said. “I think what contributed to that is that I just tried to find ways to be better in everything I did.” 

From nutrition and fitness to dedication to practice and working on her mental focus, Sorenstam likened all of those aspects to pieces of a puzzle that ultimately led her to become one of the most elite athletes in the game. 

And when she returned to the LPGA Gainbridge after 13 years of retirement in February, with her classic Callaway hat, her Cutter & Buck attire and the same, sweet, repeatable swing, it seemed like nothing had changed. 

Except, of course, it had; in the time she had been away from the sport as a player, the ANNIKA Foundation had been paying it forward to junior golf in a huge way. In fact, there were 40 ANNIKA alumni competing against her in the field that weekend, illustrating just what a huge impact Sorenstam has had on inspiring so many young women all over the world to play golf. And then there are many more like me who understand you don’t have to compete at an elite level in order to share that passion for the game.

“It warms my heart; it does. I just feel lucky that I play golf, that it took me where I am today. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for golf. I think that’s my way of creating impact. Some people do it through science or medicine, discoveries or innovations. But in looking at what I can contribute, because it needs to be authentic, it’s my passion for golf. I’ve been there,  I’ve done that, and I know what it takes, so to be able to give back….I think it gives you a feeling that you’re doing something… it’s not just the taking, what the sport did for me, it’s the giving back that’s a better feeling, really,” she explained.

Playing in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open this week is special for Sorenstam, especially with her husband, Mike McGee, on her bag and Ava and Will cheering her on, but it is likely a different experience from her younger, more highly competitive years on the LPGA Tour.

“It will be fun,” she said. “But I am at a different place in my life. Of course, I care. I mean, I’ve been practicing, but there’s also a point where there are so many other things in my life that are important. This is not what I do for a living anymore and I’ve achieved what I’ve wanted, so this week will be about the memories with the family and supporting the event.”

Reflecting on her illustrious career, Sorenstam finds it hard to pick one thing that she’s most proud of. 

“I’m just so lucky. I have so many things I can look back on. I just feel lucky that I achieved my dreams… I achieved more than my goals, way above my hopes and expectations,” Sorenstam said. 

So now, even though she’s returning to the playing field, Sorenstam’s primary focuses remain on her family and her foundation, helping grow the game and bring more people out to the course, through efforts such as last week’s Share My Passion Clinic.

Considering all the sport has given to her and all that she, in turn has given back to it, Sorenstam’s own submission wouldn’t just be a letter, it would be a novel–and one that isn’t quite finished yet at that.

Thank you, Annika, for being such a tremendous ambassador for golf, for all that you’ve done for the game, for inspiring me personally and for taking the time to chat in Minnesota. 

You’ve certainly shared your passion with so many and I vow to do my own small part to help carry the torch. Best of luck to you this weekend and in all your future endeavors. 

Caitlin Moyer

Caitlin Moyer has been hacking and hoping since she was 10. Over the course of her career in the sports industry, she's had the chance to play the game with LPGA, MLB and NBA players, as well as NASCAR drivers and celebrities, but her favorite playing partner is her dad (even though he is a stick). Inventor and sole practitioner of the one-flap™ golf swing (patent pending).