Sorenstam opens with grow-the-game message

Annika Sorenstam

Annika Sorenstam

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Annika Sorenstam’s keynote speech at the 60th PGA Merchandise Show turned to a question-and-answer session, the Hall of Famer needed little time to answer this question from moderator Jimmy Roberts: What’s your favorite memory from your playing days?

Sorenstam’s 2003 start at the PGA Tour’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, gets that honor. A little-known fact that Sorenstam revealed Thursday: The striking of that opening tee shot didn’t worry her nearly as much as teeing up her golf ball with shaking hands.

“It was probably one of my longest 4-woods ever because I was so pumped up,” remembered Sorenstam, who shot 71-74 and missed the cut by four shots at Colonial.

Under the bright lights of the PGA Show’s big stage at the Orange County Convention Center, the theme of this week became apparent as Sorenstam spoke: Find ways to grow the game. Sorenstam was a fitting candidate to deliver that message, especially to female golfers, one of the target markets identified by PGA of America president Ted Bishop a few minutes before Sorenstam took the stage.

While Bishop was the first to address a growing crowd Thursday morning at the introduction to the PGA Show, the prevalent topic of his welcome was the PGA of America’s grow-the-game initiative called Get Golf Ready. The program includes a series of group lessons designed to help beginners not only learn basic swing mechanics but how to navigate their way around a golf course.

“We have to find more ways that our players and customers and public can have more fun in golf,” Bishop said.

From Sorenstam’s perspective, that means breaking down the barriers that keep new players away from the game, including limited access to courses, slow pace of play and high costs. For women, sometimes it means intimidation.

“Women need to play with women to inspire each other,” she said.

After breaking the ice with fond memories of her start at Colonial, the 10th anniversary of which falls in May, Sorenstam again stressed the importance of welcoming women into the game. She said that starts with equipment truly designed for women, not just sawed-off men’s clubs painted pink.

“This is an important thing, building clubs for women,” she said.

Sorenstam delivered the message to the heart of the golf industry, while surrounded by golf equipment and apparel as far as the eye can see.

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