Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Hall of Fame Spotlight: Annika Sorenstam
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: July 19, 2005
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Compiled from Associated Press reports and the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame

Arizona Sports Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam may be the top women's golfer in the world, but after winning the ESPY for female athlete of the year last Wednesday, she has even loftier all-star company.

Try Barry Bonds.

Sorenstam's victory gave her seven career ESPYs, breaking a tie with Bonds for second on the all-time list. She beat out former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin and LSU basketball star Seimone Augustus.

Photo courtesy ESPN
Annika Sorenstam at the ESPYs
"I had my fingers crossed. I knew it was going to be tough," said Sorenstam, dressed in a V-neck long black dress. "Good looks does not hurt the sport."

"I do set some lofty goals and I'm very happy with what I've done," said Sorenstam, who has won two of the year's first three LPGA majors. She has won 6 of 10 tournaments this year, and is the LPGA's top money winner with more than $1.5 million.

Consistency has been the hallmark of Sorenstam’s 12-year career in pro golf. Her biggest season to date was in 2003, when she won two majors and 11 times on the LPGA Tour, became the first woman since 1945 to play on the PGA Tour, did a star turn on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and entered the LPGA Hall of Fame.

The 34-year-old Swede has proved time and time again that she has to be included in any argument about the most dominant golfer ?- male or female ?- of this era. Over the last four plus seasons, Sorenstam has separated herself from her competition even more than either Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh, boosting her total LPGA wins to 62 and climbing within striking distance of the record 88 recorded by Kathy Whitworth in a 22-year career.

“I’m still so far away from it but I’ve come so far ahead of what I ever thought I would,” Sorenstam said last year. “I always said I would continue to play this game while I enjoy it and feel motivated. I just wonder if I can continue on this pace.”

But no one should be surprised if she does.

Golfing great Nancy Lopez saw something special in Sorenstam not long after she joined the pro circuit. “There’s a calmness about her you don’t normally see in young players,” Lopez said at the time, and that’s still evident watching Sorenstam play now, striding purposefully down the fairway in wraparound sunglasses.

But then, as now, the cool, confident exterior masks a competitive desire that burns every bit as brightly as it has in any of the game’s greats.

Soon after Australian Karrie Webb knocked Sorenstam off the throne of women’s golf at the end of the 2000 season, the Swede rededicated herself to the sport with an intensity few believed she possessed. Sorenstam spent the next six weeks practicing nothing but putting and began a strength-training regimen that has made her the envy of not just her peers, but female athletes of every stripe.

After a 2002 season that ranked as the most successful by any golfer in four decades, the same impulse drove her to accept a sponsor’s invitation to play against the men at the Colonial the following year. Sorenstam missed the cut there, but played in front of crowds nearly four times larger than she routinely encounters on the LPGA Tour. She put both her game and her personality under that microscope to learn more about her weaknesses than strengths, and those lessons have been paying dividends ever since.

Sorenstam insists winning is not as easy as she makes it look. But whenever she gets in a tight spot now, Sorenstam draws on the memories of playing in front of galleries lined eight deep behind the ropes, remembering how it felt to stand in the fairway and feel like there wasn’t enough oxygen to go around. Then she draws the club back calmly and pulls off the shot she needs.

As a Wildcat, Sorenstam only needed two years to make a permanent mark on the University of Arizona history books. She is only the second woman in UA history to win the NCAA women's individual golf championship, capturing the 1991 title as a freshman. That same season she also placed second at the Pac-10 Championships.

Her performance in 1991 earner her National Player of the Year honors, Arizona's first in women's golf.

As a sophomore, she placed second at the NCAA Championships and won the Pac-10 individual title. In 1992, she led Arizona to its first-ever Pac-10 team championship.

As a Wildcat, she finished in the top 10 in every tournament but one and won seven individual titles, while helping the Wildcats win 14 team championships. Her play earned her All-America and All-Pac 10 honors each of her two years at Arizona, and during both years she was also an All-Pac 10 Academic Team selection.

She turned professional after her sophomore season and joined the LPGA tour in October of 1993, immediately establishing hersel as one of the tour's premier players in winning back-to-back U.S. Open titles in 1995 and 1996.

One of the most scrutinized golfers in history, Sorenstam has a simple philosophy she credits for her success.

“You’re a champion whether you make a bogey or a birdie,” Sorenstam said. “That’s the way I look at it.”