What does the future hold for Annika Sorenstam?
That’s the $64,000 question as the LPGA kicks off its 55th season and the No. 1 player in the world takes time to sort through her priorities after filing for divorce Feb. 4 from her eight-year marriage to David Esch.
IMG, which represents Sorenstam, declined to comment on her future, including inquiries as to when Sorenstam will make her first start. A month ago, Sorenstam said she’d like to play twice before the Kraft Nabisco Championship. If that still holds true, Sorenstam would play her first event March 4-6 at the MasterCard Classic in Mexico City, then play the Safeway International March 17-20 in Phoenix, where she is the defending champion. She is not playing in this week’s season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Hawaii.
The pending divorce raises questions about Sorenstam’s future. Sorenstam, 34, has hinted at retirement the past few years and talked about having children. With divorce on the horizon – and children seemingly not in her immediate future – the on-course question becomes: Will Sorenstam, who played only 18 LPGA tournaments in 2004, reimmerse herself in tour life? Being single again could prompt a change in Sorenstam’s plans and extend her career.
For now, Sorenstam’s future plans are merely speculation. Pia Nilsson the former Swedish National Team coach and Sorenstam’s longtime mentor, talks to Sorenstam several times a week. Nilsson says she has received no indication how much longer Sorenstam will play or how many times she’ll play this year.
“As for the future, she doesn’t know – no one knows,” Nilsson said. “It’s way too early to tell. She does have a lot of drive and motivation right now, that’s all I can say.
“She loves the challenge and going for excellence. Some players get extremely good, then they’re OK with that. Annika is the type of person who strives for excellence and is always searching for ways to get better. That hasn’t changed.”
Sorenstam may be tempted to chase Kathy Whitworth’s mark of 88 career victories. She has 56 victories – 33 the past four seasons – and stands fifth on the all-time list. Patty Berg’s record of 15 major championships may seem beyond Sorenstam’s reach – she has seven – but she has not backed down from challenges in the past. For the second consecutive season, Sorenstam will start 2005 with a goal of winning the LPGA’s Grand Slam.
LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw last spoke with Sorenstam at last month’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., and noticed no change in her personality.
“She seemed in very good spirits and very anxious to get the year started,” Votaw said. “I haven’t talked to her recently, but when I do I’ll tell her that we’re supportive and very respectful of her privacy.”
Sorenstam filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage Feb. 4 in Circuit Court of Orange County (Fla.), not far from where she and Esch own an Orlando home in the gated community of Lake Nona. The suit has been sealed, thus no details were available.
“I want to confirm that I have filed for divorce,” Sorenstam said in a statement released Feb. 15. “We are working toward an amicable resolution and we appreciate the media’s respect for our privacy. I wish David nothing but the best for the future.”
IMG said Sorenstam was not available for further comment. She was, however, spotted Feb. 20 at NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and was introduced to drivers at a prerace meeting.
Efforts to contact Esch for comment were unsuccessful.