2010 Golfweek for Her: Anna Rawson: a model on the golf course

Los Angeles | The only high-maintenance portion of an all-day shoot with Anna Rawson in March is the bedazzled, see-through dress she has on loan from the Oscars. Rawson – the runway model and LPGA player whose legs would look stunning popping out from a paper sack – borrowed the black cocktail dress from an undisclosed celebrity who needed it back ASAP.

And though the dress most certainly was sheer under the lights of the dressing area, the camera’s flash mercifully failed to cause a wardrobe malfunction. Rawson sparkled on our faux red-carpet setup with her oversized jewels (also borrowed). Her publicist scurried out of the studio with the goods as soon as the “look” was complete. It was, after all, Oscars weekend.

Rawson – from a distance – is the kind of woman whom every girl loves to hate. At 28, she can eatanything she wants and still wear the same size she wore in high school. She has one top 10 to her credit on the LPGA and zero wins worldwide, yet this issue marks her 30th magazine cover. She is a syndicated columnist in 13 publications across 27 countries and was recruited by Ivy League schools to play golf before choosing Southern Cal. Rawson has been modeling since age 16 and has her own golf instruction show airing in South Korea. She even has a cool accent.

“I think before (fellow LPGA members) play with me they’re definitely thinking, ‘Oh God, what’s this going to be like?’ ” Rawson said.

Those who claim they can’t understand why Rawson gets so much attention are kidding themselves. The 5-foot-10-inch Aussie is the only professional model on the LPGA, and that fact alone makes her printworthy in the eyes of mainstream media. She also happens to be frank during interviews – sometimes to her detriment – and works hard with her team to build a global presence.

When Rawson played in Dubai two years ago, she had four photo shoots and five interviews during tournament week. One shoot had her changing clothes in the back of a car in the middle of the desert before climbing into a hot-air balloon. A camel galloped through the first shot.

Jealous yet?

“I think so many people are like ‘Wow, you’re not what I expected.’ They always think if you’re a model you’re very pretentious and sophisticated. They think I’m going to be quite stuck-up,” said Rawson, who describes herself as a goofball. “I always make fun of myself and have fun. I feel like I’m Cameron Diaz in ‘There’s Something About Mary.’ ”

Rawson was born and raised in Adelaide, Australia. When she was 5 years old, her mother committed suicide, a tragedy that helps her connect with fans facing similar situations in a very raw way.

“I remember her when she was sick – she had severe depression. I remember her hiding in the closet, just curled up in a fetal position,” Rawson said. “The greatest part about that memory is that I knew she was suffering. It’s not like she was happy and it came out of nowhere.”

Rawson and her older brother, Willy, were raised by their father, Jim, a former Australian football star who now owns a surf and ski franchise. Jim Rawson said the “rubbery” nature of kids helped shelter Anna and Willy from the weight of their mother’s death. It wasn’t until recent years that Anna began asking other relatives for more information.

“It had been probably shelved a bit in her childhood,” he said.

Rawson grew up on the beach and molded her life around sports. Her father calls her an “all-rounder” and introduced her to golf at age 13. Around that time she began sprouting up like a gangly weed and landed a job filling buckets at KFC. At 16, she entered her first cover model contest. As a finalist, she flew to Sydney for a shoot where a famous manager approached her about becoming an actor. She phoned home to tell dad she was going to become a soap opera star.

“He said, ‘Get on a plane, come back to school and play golf. That’s what you do,’ ” Rawson said.

She dutifully returned to Adelaide and won the South Australian and Victorian Junior Championships in 1999. American Ivy League schools looked at her test scores and came calling. The athletic beauty was smart, too.

With a distaste for flying and frigid weather, Rawson toured California’s best schools and signed on to become a Trojan. In 2003, Rawson helped USC win the national championship, a highlight of her golfing career. She graduated with a degree in communications and turned professional in ’04, bringing along classmate Anthony Rodriguez as her manager. She still relies on Rodriguez for everything from choosing sponsors to the right pair of heels.

In 2005, Rawson played a full season on the Duramed Futures Tour and finished 29th on the money list. She then switched her focus to the Ladies European Tour – and her swing to stack and tilt – and placed 74th in earnings in ’06 and 33rd in ’07.

Rawson bonded with former Cal-Berkeley player Anna Temple while playing in Europe. Temple marveled at Rawson’s ability to transition so easily from one world to the next – sports, Hollywood, Europe – calling her a chameleon.

Rawson graduated to the LPGA in 2008 and played in 13 events; her best finish was a T-10 in Mobile. Last season she competed in 18 LPGA tournaments, making more noise in her GoDaddy.com commercial than anywhere else.

With that kind of record, insiders may wonder why Carson Daily recently asked Rawson to be a guest on his show. Or why national magazines ask a player who can barely crack the top 100 for instructional tips.

Again, she’s a professional model.

Sponsorship dollars in the women’s golf world aren’t easy to come by. Rawson’s GoDaddy relationship already has expired as has her clothing contract with J. Lindeberg. Rodriguez is working to land Rawson another clothing contract in which she serves as one of the designers. There’s also a signature hat line in the works.

“As a model and a golfer, what you wear is the most important decision you can make,” Rodriguez said. “Not only about your brand, but how you feel every day.”

From oversized visors and Chanel sunglasses to long, flowing skirts and mini-shorts, conversation never lacks when it comes to Rawson’s style. Plain polo shirts are simply out of the question. There must be a ruffle or a pleat somewhere in plain sight.

It’s also worth noting that her style isn’t always copied because it takes a certain body-type (re: 1-iron) to pull off a look like the super short, puffy Stella McCartney Adidas shorts Rawson wore for this Golfweek for Her shoot and the LPGA’s Kia Classic.

“I’m not getting any younger, and I’ve worked hard at my body,” Rawson explains.

Among her peers, Rawson loves the style of Korean players, particularly Soo-Yun Kang. She praises anyone who stands out, like Christina Kim’s bright red lipstick and eye-popping clothes.

“That’s not my style,” she says, “but I appreciate that’s how she works it.”

On the PGA Tour, Rawson believes Ian Poulter is her male counterpart: “He’s really tall and lanky and he’s got, like, no butt. You can see his spine in his backswing. He’s so nice and cute and funny.”

When it comes to celebrities, Rawson likes how Rihanna “takes it to the edge” and lauds Victoria Beckham’s post-Posh transformation. When it comes to the red carpet, Rawson feels her compatriot, Nicole Kidman, is flawless.

Awards shows such as the Emmy’s, Rawson says, can be “the most boring thing you’ve ever done.” She prefers movie premieres, where she can nibble on free popcorn and skip the after-party.

Rawson’s father always has said Anna was blessed with her mother’s legs. When he caddied for her on occasion in Europe, he couldn’t help but notice the photographers who followed her the entire way.

“It gets a little bit embarrassing, you know?” he said.

When asked for her best behind-the-scenes tidbit about fashion shows, Rawson wasn’t shy: “If there are men in your shows, everyone is butt-naked. . . . Obviously, everyone is really good-looking and has a great body so you’re in good company. Personality, not always that great, but at (16) who is looking at that?”

These days, Rawson does have a boyfriend – she’s not naming names – and a celebrity crush on Adam Sandler. She spotted Happy Gilmore himself in the grill room at Riviera, and even though they’d met before, was too nervous to approach. She prefers to bond with celebrities she runs into in the produce section of her neighborhood Whole Foods in tony Brentwood. It’s far less intrusive to interrupt while shopping for food rather than eating it, she reasons.

Despite not having won yet, Rawson has grown into a minor celebrity herself in the sports world. Jim Rawson, who believes his daughter’s putting has held her back, mourns missed birdie opportunities from his computer in Adelaide like any other doting dad, but knows Anna’s role as well as anyone else.

“She’s trying to make women’s golf more glamorous,” Jim said.

Rawson claims to feel more comfortable on the golf course than the catwalk, comparing the runway to approaching the 18th with everything on the line.

“They’re both that ‘Oh my God, don’t fall, don’t fall,’ ” she said. “In golf it’s ‘Don’t shank.’”

As soon as the words tumbled out of Rawson’s mouth she wished she could take them back. For a woman who looks and sounds so confident, the dialogue running through her mind comes as a surprise.

“That’s my struggle, my mind going to that place,” she said. “I should think, ‘This is great, all these people watching me. I can show off.’”

While Rawson’s frankness endears her to the media, she has landed in trouble for forgetting to use a filter at times. While playing in Australia early last year, Rawson made a disparaging comment on a radio show that more than ruffled a few feathers among her peers on tour. Rawson made a slur against lesbians, saying the public in general still looks at the LPGA as it did 25 years ago when it was “full of . . . unattractive females nobody wanted to watch.”

Rawson, of course, apologized publicly and to players at a membership meeting in Hawaii, saying it wasn’t her opinion, but simply a “reference to how I feel society sees women’s golf as a whole.”

She has since moved on from the PR nightmare, and feels most everyone else has, too. This season, she hopes it’s her game that makes headlines. Rawson doesn’t bother pretending to believe she can be No. 1 in the world, but she is confident she can win LPGA tournaments.

As for her other career, Rawson concedes her modeling days are dwindling.

“There aren’t too many models working now (over 28) who weren’t super, super models,” she said. “You can’t defeat gravity.”

Rawson’s father envisions her becoming a commentator when her playing days are over. On the drive to the photo shoot in her Porsche Cayenne, Rawson said she was thinking about how much she enjoys being at a studio playing dress-up. Perhaps one day she’ll become a stylist herself, or design her own fitness line.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than making someone look beautiful,” she said.

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