Orlando, Fla. | Pro shop buyers, beware: When Annika Sorenstam visits a golf-course shop, she scours the racks looking for her Cutter & Buck line. If it’s not there, she wants to know why.
“That’s how competitive I am,” she said. “I don’t understand why we can’t be in every pro shop.”
While this habit surely has led to some awkward moments, it’s exactly what one would expect from an athlete conditioned to win.
The Annika Collection debuted in fall 2004, and retirement hasn’t diminished its demand. Sorenstam re-signed with Cutter & Buck through 2016, and starting next year, the number of annual lines will increase from four to six.
“We are very happy at the pace in which we have built this collection,” said
Julie Snow, vice president of design and merchandising for Cutter & Buck. Snow has worked with Sorenstam from the start, first bringing design boards and fabrics to the LPGA legend’s kitchen table.
These days, Sorenstam needs a bigger table. Last spring, she moved around the corner into a more spacious Lake Nona home previously owned and built by golf instructor David Leadbetter. She needs the space for husband Mike McGee, daughter Ava and Sorenstam’s growing business ventures.
There’s a terrific short-game area across the driveway at Sorenstam’s house, but the Hall of Famer hasn’t spent much time on her wedges.
“Go look for divots,” her husband challenged.
The grass on Sorenstam’s property remains intact. Instead, she attacks her business portfolio with the same tenacity that brought her 89 victories worldwide.
“I think in these times you weed out the people who aren’t serious, the people without quality,” said Sorenstam, whose full-time business career started in the midst of economic turmoil. “The people who are strong will survive.”
Sorenstam first wore Cutter & Buck in 2000, when she paired with her sister, Charlotta, at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in Malaysia. Charlotta was sponsored by Cutter & Buck, and Annika put her logos
on the clothes when they couldn’t find colors that matched. Not long after, Annika gave Cutter & Buck a call, and within two years they were brainstorming her own label.
Sorenstam’s influence on the line has grown over the years, but Snow said the Swede always has been instrumental in how pieces fit, how they move and how they function.
“It’s road-tested by a (former) No. 1 player in women’s golf,” Snow said.
“If things aren’t working, we know about it.”
While Sorenstam has learned to trust most of the color combinations thrown her way, she’s not afraid to
suggest a few tweaks. She remembers one “puke green” shade, in particular.
“If I’m going to wear it, I want to be happy with it,” she said.
Sorenstam concedes she wasn’t known for being the most fashionable player on tour, but she always has been practical. She hopes golf fans equate her name with quality.
In addition to the Annika Collection, Cutter & Buck has another women’s line, which Snow describes as more generous in its sizing and more country-club friendly.
“We see the Annika Collection as a faster, slimmer silhouette, and we think it’s a slightly younger demographic,” Snow said. “We tend to feel it’s more urban-centric.”
Before longer shorts became so prevalent, Sorenstam’s line featured a longer short that played off of her European roots. It continues to be one of the best-selling staples of Sorenstam’s line, though she now prefers playing in comfy skorts (when she actually plays).
While Sorenstam aims to have her line everywhere, she understands the realities of the women’s market. Some pro shops, she said, “Hang a pink shirt and say, ‘Yeah, we have ladies.’
“A lot of women don’t buy golf clothes,” she said. “They buy clothes at department stores because they don’t want to leave the golf course and feel like they’re playing through.”
She believes many men, however, want to buy a logoed shirt to show friends where they’ve played.
“I’d love for women to feel the same as the men, buying more in pro shops,” she said.
To help achieve that goal, McGee works with pro shops to develop a sense of place for Annika’s line. Ideally, they’d like to see her Cutter & Buck clothes surrounded by other elements
of the Annika brand – a bottle of her wine, her book, a trophy to remind customers of her
Her most recent partnership? An agreement with the Ritz-Carlton Destination Club that will create such displays at club locations. Sorenstam also will take part in occasional culinary events, wine tastings and golf outings with members.
“It isn’t simply putting your name on a label and walking away,” Snow said.
Sorenstam goes into every business endeavor with a hands-on approach. To develop the Annika Fragrance, she tested numerous scents in every duty-free airport shop she could find.
“I would get on the plane and people would wonder,” she said, laughing. “I tried everything.”
(Sorenstam’s perfume will be sold on shopannika.com.)
She was just as thorough launching her wine – though that process probably was more enjoyable. Her namesake Syrah retails for $75, and though the reviews have been good, sales are not as high as she’d like.
“Everybody is holding on to their wallets,” she said.
Still, her team is moving forward with a wine club fans can join this summer. At the upscale Sea Salt restaurant in Naples, Fla., she reports that hers is the No. 1-selling bottle.
The Annika Academy at Reunion, a project that consumed most of her time in the past several years, enjoyed its best three months over the winter in terms of bookings and general interest. Sorenstam credits
some of that surge to a recent push in advertising.
In 2010, the bulk of her work energy will be spent on her foundation. Don Ochsenreiter came on board as president of the Annika Foundation in February 2009 and has worked diligently on its
campaign to get children healthier.
“The mission is to get kids living a healthy, active lifestyle,” Ochsenreiter said. “Getting them off the couch, playing a sport. She’s really passionate about that.”
The Annika Foundation has partnered with SPARK, a nonprofit organization that works with schools to teach good health and nutrition. Florida recently received a grant from the federal government to implement SPARK physical education in its middle schools.
Ochsenreiter said Sorenstam, who also has partnered with Florida Hospital, hopes to devise an “Annika Curriculum” that can be used in after-school programs around the state. She’d also like to raise funds to open a wellness center for children.
While at the University of Arizona, Sorenstam studied nutrition. On tour, her work in the gym raised the level of fitness in the women’s game. Sorenstam believes this will be a “breakout year” for her foundation.
“I honestly believe in everything that we do,” she said.
And her golf game?
“She doesn’t even think about missing it,” McGee said.
– Ashleigh Korzack contributed