PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - PGA/LPGA Professional Annika Sörenstam, who followed one of the most decorated careers in women's golf history by becoming a spokesperson for improving the health of the next generation, has been named the recipient of the 2013 PGA First Lady of Golf Award.
The PGA First Lady of Golf Award, inaugurated in 1998 and presented biennially since 2011, is bestowed upon a woman who has made significant contributions to the promotion of the game of golf.
Sörenstam, 43, will be honored at The PGA of America Awards, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, during the 61st PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center's Chapin Theater in Orlando, Fla.
Born in Bro, Sweden, Sörenstam is the first internationally born golfer to be named PGA First Lady of Golf and is the third award recipient with dual PGA of America and LPGA membership, following Renee Powell (2003) and Carol Mann (2008). Sörenstam was elected to PGA membership on April 19, 2013, and is a member of the North Florida PGA Section.
"Annika's impact upon women's golf in the modern era has been remarkable, setting a standard that may never be touched," said PGA of America President Ted Bishop. "Her commitment to fitness and excellence made her a legend on the course, but her legacy in the game also includes a sincere dedication to growing a healthy next generation and inspiring future young women through golf. The PGA is honored to now call her the 2013 PGA First Lady of Golf."
The winner of 89 worldwide professional events on the LPGA and Ladies European Tour, including 10 major championships, Sörenstam owns 29 top-10 finishes in 57 lifetime major appearances. In 2003, she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and stepped away from competitive golf in May 2008. She remains the LPGA's all-time money leader ($22 million).
Sörenstam has since devoted her off-course career to being a mother and building her ANNIKA-branded businesses. They include a teaching academy, golf course design firm, financial-planning group, apparel collection, signature wines and a charitable foundation, which teaches children how to live a healthy, active lifestyle through fitness and nutrition while also inspiring junior female golfers with playing opportunities.
"I have been so fortunate throughout my life to have people who helped pave the way for me to work hard and exceed my goals on and off the course," said Sörenstam. "I truly feel like I am living a dream and want to help the next generation do the same. It's gratifying that The PGA of America has taken notice of our programming that offers junior girls the opportunity to play first-class tournaments around the world, while also educating them about the importance of health and wellness. I'm flattered to be named the 2013 PGA First Lady of Golf."
Sörenstam was a nationally ranked junior tennis player and standout skier before turning her attention to golf at age 12, sharing her first set of clubs with her sister, Charlotta, who also became an LPGA Tour Professional. Sörenstam became a highly successful amateur player and attended the University of Arizona, where she became the first foreign-born freshman to win the NCAA national championship, in 1991. She earned All-American honors in 1991-92, and finished runner-up in the 1992 U.S. Women's Amateur and the NCAA national championship.
She turned professional in 1992, missing her LPGA Tour card in Qualifying School by one stroke and competed on the Ladies European Tour. Sörenstam played in three 1993 LPGA Tour events, earning more than $47,000, a season in which she had four runner-up finishes on the Ladies European Tour and was that Tour's 1993 Rookie of the Year.
She earned her LPGA Tour card in 1994 and won her first professional title at the 1994 Holden Women's Australian Open. That same season, Sörenstam was the LPGA Rookie of the Year after three top-10 finishes, including a share of second in the Women's British Open. She also made her Solheim Cup debut that year.
In 1995, Sörenstam began her march to golf history by making the U.S. Women's Open her first victory on the LPGA Tour. She finished No. 1 on the LPGA money list and became the first non-American winner of the Vare Trophy for season scoring excellence. She became the second player ever to be Player of the Year and Vare Trophy winner the year after being Rookie of the Year.
Her victory in the 1995 Australian Ladies Masters, and two other wins on the Ladies European Tour (LET), put her atop the LET Order of Merit. Sörenstam became the first player to top both the European and LPGA Tour money lists in the same season.
She is a two-time recipient (1995, 2003) of the Jerringpris, Sweden's most prestigious sports award. In October 2003, Sörenstam became the first international player to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame through the LPGA criteria.
In 2001, Sörenstam advanced her fitness regimen and won eight LPGA Tour events, including the Standard Register PING Championship where she recorded a 59 in the second round. She thus became the first and only woman professional to accomplish the feat. In 2003, Sörenstam won 11 LPGA events to match the single-season record of legend Mickey Wright. That same year, she competed in the Colonial, thereby becoming the first female professional to play in a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias in 1945. Also in 2001, Sörenstam won the LPGA Championship and the Women's British Open, becoming the sixth player to complete the LPGA Career Grand Slam.
Sörenstam competed on eight European Solheim Cup Teams, posting a 22-11-4 record. She is the No. 2 all-time point-winner (24) in event history. In 2008, she won the Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill, which was her 72nd and final win on the LPGA Tour.
After stepping away from the tour, Sörenstam combined golf, fitness and charitable works into various businesses under the ANNIKA brand with the tagline, "Share My Passion." Her golf course design business has taken her to Asia, South Africa and Europe. In 2007, she opened the ANNIKA Academy at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla.
"The tagline, 'Share My Passion,' pertains to all my businesses, but also my life in general," said Sörenstam. "I think it is so important to be 100 percent committed to everything you do while also sharing your experiences with others. I am passionate about many things like my family, having balance in life, good food and wine, growing the game of golf, living a healthy active lifestyle, my businesses and helping children. Empowering the next generation to follow their dreams is extremely gratifying and my way of giving back and paying tribute to those who were there before me."
Sörenstam is the International Ambassador for The First Tee's Nine Healthy Habits, and sponsors an American Junior Golf Association invitation-only event featuring the top-72 junior girl players from around the world. It is one of four global competitions hosted by the ANNIKA Foundation for junior female golfers.
Sörenstam and her husband, Mike McGee, live in Orlando, Fla., and are parents of a daughter, Ava 4, and a son, William, 2.
PGA First Lady of Golf Recipients
1998 Barbara Nicklaus
1999 Judy Rankin
2000 No recipient
2001 Judy Bell
2002 Nancy Lopez
2003 Renee Powell
2004 Alice Dye
2005 Carol Semple Thompson
2006 Kathy Whitworth
2007 Peggy Kirk Bell
2008 Carol Mann
2009 Donna Caponi-Byrnes
2010 No recipient
2011 Mary Bea Porter-King
2013 Annika Sörenstam
About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public's interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.