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Noting their dreams for more Annika Academies in far-flung countries and an Annika restaurant and an Annika reality show and an Annika-hosted LPGA event and various other manifestations of Annika, McGee says, "She's only getting started in the business world. She has very high aspirations, obviously. But ultimately I feel the work with her foundation will be Annika's legacy."
Sorenstam has always been inclined to give back. In 1996, after a mere two years on the LPGA tour, she established a scholarship fund for junior golfers at Bro Balsta, her home club in Sweden. Now she is involved with a dizzying number of initiatives and nonprofits, serving as a spokesperson, fund-raiser or cheerleader (or all three) for, among others, the Boys & Girls Club of Osceola (Fla.), the Women's Sports Foundation, the SPARK physical education program, Athletes for Hope, and the Florida Governor's Council on Physical Fitness. "All of her nonprofit work has two main points of emphasis," Ochsenreiter says. "One is to get children healthy and active. The other is to grow junior golf, particularly among girls. The First Tee is where these passions meet." In February, Sorenstam became the spokesperson for the First Tee's new Nine Healthy Habits program, which seeks to promote kids' health and wellness through golf and nutrition.
"We had a very idyllic childhood, always playing outdoors, very healthy," says Charlotta. "Annika is driven by the belief that every kid should experience the same thing. And then you add to that the game of golf [which] has given her so much."
Annika has a bricks-and-mortar vision of her approach to life: the Annika Children's Wellness Center, for which she is fund-raising and hopes to break ground on by 2013. "It'll be like the coolest YMCA you've ever imagined," Ochsenreiter says. "It's going to have a playground and a driving range but also a garden and demonstration kitchen and many other bells and whistles."
Sorenstam could reach even more people if, to great fanfare, she made a Jordanesque comeback to competition. She has teased golf fans a couple of times recently. Last November she played the Callaway Invitational, a low-key pro-am at Pebble Beach that brings together players from the PGA, Champions and LPGA tours on the same leader board. Sorenstam finished a dozen shots behind winner John Mallinger, and among the 13 women only Morgan Pressel fared better. "I still know how to get from A to B," Annika says. And she still has that glorious, endlessly repeating swing. "It will never leave her," Reis says. "It is part of her. With a month of hard work she could again be the best ball striker on the LPGA. But it would take probably a year to build up her body and sharpen her scoring."
So how about it, Annika?
"I don't want to be a ceremonial golfer," she says. "I remember what it felt like to play well. I don't enjoy not playing well. I have great memories of my career. I'm happy to hold on to those. I'm at peace where I am."
Yet the game remains central to so much of what she does. Sorenstam was a big part of the push to have golf rejoin the Olympics, and she is an influential adviser to the LPGA's Commissioner Advisory Council. Some day she will have her own LPGA event, with Reunion Resort as the logical venue. Discussions with commissioner Mike Whan and potential sponsors are ongoing; in early 2012 Sorenstam hopes to host an unofficial shootout to drum up interest. She will serve as an assistant captain for the Europeans at this year's Solheim Cup, and there is zero doubt that she will assume the captaincy sometime in the future.
Sorenstam lights up when talking about the Annika Invitational, an annual tournament for 72 top girls from around the world. There are the usual clinics and fancy dinners but also media training (during which Annika asks the questions) and a visit to Florida Hospital for education about nutrition and skin care. On the last day of competition Sorenstam greets every girl at the 18th green.
Starting in 2003 she began a more personalized outreach, selecting a top Swedish boy and girl to visit America for hands-on career counseling. The second year, Anna Nordqvist journeyed to Arizona to spend the week observing Sorenstam at an LPGA event and to visit Arizona (Annika's alma mater) and Arizona State. Nordqvist wound up at ASU. Sorenstam continued to serve as an active mentor, which made Nordqvist's victory at the 2009 LPGA Championship as a 22-year-old rookie less than shocking. In the last couple of years Nordqvist has continued her Annika-ization, working with Reis and Fusser and making the Academy her home base. "I'm part of Team Annika," Nordqvist says. She's not alone. Sorenstam is in close contact with a number of LPGA players, including Yani Tseng, Paula Creamer, Sandra Gal, Natalie Gulbis and Maria Hjorth. "It's fun, it keeps me connected to the game and the players," Sorenstam says. "I don't talk swings, I talk everything else—caddies, schedule, preparation, mental aspects. I feel flattered they come to me."