Arkansas' Maria Fassi inspires as ANNIKA Award winner

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas' Maria Fassi inspires as ANNIKA Award winner

College

Arkansas' Maria Fassi inspires as ANNIKA Award winner

LAKE ELMO, Minn. – Annika Sorenstam’s 9-year-old daughter, Ava, already has many great role models, including her 10-time major-winning mom. But when the Sorenstams attended the ANNIKA Award announcement last June in Orlando, Fla., Ava gained another inspiration: Arkansas senior Maria Fassi, the 2018 winner of the award, which is given to the top female college golfer each season.

Monday night at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn., Sorenstam talked about that night in Orlando, when Fassi had a “flossing” dance-off with Ava in the Golf Channel studios and later spent three hours eating dinner and having great conversation with the Sorenstams at Fishbones.

“It brought tears to my eyes and when Annika was talking about the night that we had and the impact that I had on her little girl,” Fassi said. “She inspires everyone; that’s the legacy that she left and I’ve tried to live up to.”

Fassi continued to get emotional as she gave her acceptance speech. Winning the ANNIKA Award means so much to her, but the people who helped her get there meant more.

“I thought I wasn’t going to be nearly as nervous as I was,” Fassi said. “But the excitement doesn’t go away. It’s just crazy to think that I won this award. I’ve known about this for two months, but it seems like it was today that I found out for the first time. I’m really lucky and thankful.”

Fassi won six times last season en route to winning the ANNIKA Award. She arrived at Royal Golf Club looking to defend her ANNIKA Intercollegiate individual title. However, a back injury has hampered her for much of the year, including last spring at the NCAA Women’s Championship.

After shooting even-par 72 with an eagle-birdie finish, Fassi admitted that she was playing at “about 60 percent.” The injury is muscular, Fassi said, and it prevents her from fully turning during her swing.

“It’s just from too much golf,” Fassi said. “I haven’t had the time to recover and take care of it. I’m going to stop for two weeks to get it fixed and just so I can play freely. It’s annoying because it’s keeping me from playing the way I want to.”

If healthy, Fassi is a favorite to win another ANNIKA Award this season.

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