The first time Maria Fassi won the ANNIKA Award Presented by Stifel, she enjoyed a leisurely dinner with Annika Sorenstam’s family after the official presentation.
“I joke with Shauna (Estes-Taylor) that it was like a Mexican dinner because it took like three or four hours,” Fassi said.
Winning the ANNIKA Award a second time is more personal for Fassi, who has developed a close relationship with Sorenstam’s entire family. Sorenstam’s daughter, Ava, taught her how to floss (as in the dance, not dental hygiene).
“Obviously, I travel with my kids and I see how people treat them,” said Sorenstam, “and that to me says more about the person.”
Fassi’s second ANNIKA Award didn’t come as easily as the first given that she accumulated six victories in her junior season. But in her senior year, Fassi did it with plenty of flare, winning the SEC title and NCAA Championship at her home course in Arkansas.
“I said it last year and I’ll say it again this year, it’s nice to get the recognition from the coaches, the players and, of course, the golf media,” said Fassi. “I knew it was going to be a tougher battle to get it this year.”
Last year, Fassi became the first SEC player to win the award. She now joins Duke’s Leona Maguire (2017, 2015) as the only two-time winners.
“Just having people like Annika and Mike (McGee) in my contact list, it’s pretty amazing the things I’ve learned from Annika,” said Fassi. “She’s one of the players I admire the most. She’s always helping and reaching to me to see if I need anything. It’s just been great to see how involved she’s been in my game and my life, especially after winning the award last year.”
Fassi recorded a 71.18 scoring average for the season and notched five top-5 finishes. She posted seven rounds in the 60s over the course of the season.
A runner-up finish at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and subsequent television appearances tremendously boosted her profile. She turned professional at last week’s U.S. Women’s Open and tied for 12th.
“I think the best way that I can say it is Stacy Lewis put Arkansas on the map, and Maria Fassi put an exclamation point on it,” said Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor. “She was a tremendous leader on and off the golf course, and a dream kid to coach.”
A perk of winning the award: Fassi receives an exemption in the 2020 Evian Championship. She will also get an exemption to this year’s Evian, as a result of winning the ANNIKA a year ago.
List of ANNIKA Award winners
2019 – Maria Fassi, Arkansas
2018 – Maria Fassi, Arkansas
2017 – Leona Maguire, Duke
2016 – Bronte Law, UCLA
2015 – Leona Maguire, Duke
2014 – Alison Lee, UCLA