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Annika Sorenstam is the world's greatest woman golfer?a dominant force in the game who has already captured a career Grand Slam and become the all-time LPGA money leader. Her rigorous mental and physical dedication has changed the face of her sport, and her fierce determination and unparalleled preparation have won her tournaments and fans the world over. In 2003, she made international headlines by becoming the first woman in more than fifty years to play against men in a professional event, bringing her ...
Annika Sorenstam is the world's greatest woman golfer—a dominant force in the game who has already captured a career Grand Slam and become the all-time LPGA money leader. Her rigorous mental and physical dedication has changed the face of her sport, and her fierce determination and unparalleled preparation have won her tournaments and fans the world over. In 2003, she made international headlines by becoming the first woman in more than fifty years to play against men in a professional event, bringing her trademark game and competitiveness to a whole new level.
Now for the first time Annika takes you inside her extraordinary success and shows every golfer how to play and win like a pro. She breaks down the fundamentals of her game and shares her winning course strategies in one complete, easy-to-follow instruction book.
Golf Annika's Way features:
• All you need to know about how to use every club in the bag, from fairway woods to short irons to the putter
• The secrets of the power behind her potent swing, from the essentials of grip and posture to her unconventional form on the follow-through
• Hundreds of full-color photos, including high-speed shots that capture the elements of Annika's powerful swing frame-by-frame in a foldout spread
• An insider look at the unique weight training and dietary regimen Annika has developed for building a stronger physique—and a longer drive
Filled with insights and stories from throughout her colorful career, Golf Annika's Way gives you priceless advice from a champion's perspective. It's a must-have for Annika's millions of fans—and men and women golfers of all ages and skill levels who want to lower their scores on the course and bring their game to the next level.
BACKCOVER: “She's the best. She's the epitome of integrity and class. She's truly great.” — Arnold Palmer
“She has dominated the world of women's golf. It's not often you can say you have seen the best, but in Annika, I think perhaps we have.” —Tiger Woods
“I've never seen a player with such focus and concentration. She's a real whiz.” —Louise Suggs
“She simply has that air, not of cockiness, but of knowing that you can do it—and just going out and doing it.” —Jack Nicklaus
“A human golf machine. Ahead of anyone in the game—male or female.” —Johnny Miller
It makes me laugh when people call me "robotic" or "mechanical." I might be all business on the course sometimes, but I'm smiling on the inside. I love the game of golf, and I've never lost the intense passion for sports and sense of pure fun I had as a kid. That passion helped turn a so-so junior player into an LPGA champion, and I've got my family to thank for instilling it in me at an early age.
I was born in 1970 in the small town of Bro, about 30 miles from Stockholm, where my father worked as a product manager for IBM and my mother worked at a bank until my sister Charlotta came along in 1973. We were typical middle-class Swedes in every way but one: We were sports crazy and super-competitive. My mother played golf while she was pregnant with me-I know I picked up the rhythm of her swing before I was born. And the only unusual thing about our three-bedroom house, which stood on a cul-de-sac, was the game room my dad had built in our basement. We had a badminton court, table tennis, and later, when Charlotta and I got interested in golf as teenagers, a hitting net. My fierce competitive drive was born in that rec room, during our family tournaments.
To my parents' credit, my first memories of golf have more to do with ice cream and pretend pony rides than with white-knuckle competition. In Sweden, middle-class people can afford to join golf clubs and kids are always welcome, so Charlotta and I tagged along with our parents to Viksjo Golf Club. When we were toddlers, we'd pretend their pullcarts were ponies and ride them. We were much more interested in fishing balls out of water hazards than with hitting shots. Back then, the most important part of a round was the ice cream we'd get at the 9th-hole snack shop.
As we got older, we'd putt on the practice green while my parents played. My parents were-and still are-casual athletes. They never pushed us in sports. It was Charlotta and I who brought sports to a whole new level in our family.
When I first took up the game, I had no idea how important golf would someday be to me. Tennis seemed more exciting, and I spent my days dreaming about my idol, Bjorn Borg. He was the kind of champion I wanted to be. Not only was Bjorn a national hero, he dominated his sport. When he won Wimbledon in 1980 for the fifth time in a row, the country stood still, and everyone watched on television. What impressed me most was that Bjorn came from a middle-class background, like me. He didn't grow up with his own tennis court or fancy practice facilities. He would bang balls against his garage door.
He proved that a person could achieve great things with talent and hard work.
I was pretty good at tennis, and attended camp every summer from age five to eleven. At 10, I was one of the top 10 players in Stockholm. I worked hard, but I just didn't get tennis. I didn't develop as quickly as I wanted. While I had a great forehand, my backhand was only so-so, and opponents learned to prey on that. I was too proud for that, so one day I tossed my racket in the closet and decided to give golf a try.
A new club had opened nearby, and Charlotta and I used to ride our bikes 20 minutes to get there. Today Bro-Balsta Golf Club has more than a thousand members, but then it was very small. We were among the first members, and Charlotta and I felt like family there. As teens we spent nearly every summer day at Bro-Balsta, playing a few holes, swimming in the lake, or hanging out at "Junior Corner," a shack near the driving range where we could play music and eat snacks. The club didn't have a ball picker, so in the evenings the pro would call Charlotta and me and offer to pay us to retrieve balls from the range. Then we'd say, "Well, we don't know, it's Friday night ..." and negotiate until he'd raise the pay. We were paid about $10 a barrel to pick up thousands of balls, and it made our forearms strong. Usually the money went right back to the pro shop for balls, gloves, or a putter or two. When I got a little older I worked in the shop, checking people in for their tee times, and sneaking outside to practice bunker shots when business was slow.
It took me a while to fall in love with the game. Like everyone who begins to play seriously, I was often frustrated. I threw my share of tantrums-you might say I was sometimes more John McEnroe than Bjorn Borg. At 12, my first handicap was 54, and my first clubs were a set of Mizunos that Charlotta and I shared. (She got the even-numbered clubs, I got the odds.) One day, out of sheer frustration over a poor shot, I grabbed the head of the 5-wood and slammed the club in the bag as hard as I could. I cracked the shaft near the grip. Knowing my father had worked hard to buy those clubs, I was so embarrassed that I kept playing with the club-you couldn't really see the crack-and finally had it reshafted when I'd saved enough money.
Today I'm known for my accuracy and mental strength under pressure, but my road to emotional and physical maturity in golf was a long one.
It began with the Swedish National Golf Federation, and I was lucky that the Federation, like my parents, never lost sight of the fact that golf should be fun.
I was a mediocre junior golfer. By 15, I was shooting in the mid- to high 90s, and no one would have said I was going places. But I was athletic and persistent, so I soaked up as much as I could in the organized practices run by the Swedish Federation. Junior golf begins at the club level, where pros work with juniors and recommend better players for Federation training camps. At first, the practices aren't too serious; they're a great way to hang out with friends
But soon the real work begins. Swedish players learn from an early age that the mind and body are inseparable, and both swing coaches and mental-game consultants guide better players from the youth program until the day they turn pro. But the Federation also encourages athletes to think for themselves, which may be why so many Swedes are internationally successful.
At that age, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life, but I began moving up through the Federation's ranks. I thought I was giving golf my all. Then, one evening, after a long day of play and practice, it started to rain. I called my father to pick me up. When he arrived, he looked silently out over the range, where a few juniors were hitting balls in the rain and dwindling light. On the ride home, my father said, "You know, Annika, there are no shortcuts to success."
Those words have affected everything I've done since that day. I think about them on mornings when I don't feel like getting out of bed to lift weights, when I'm not in the mood to practice after a tough round, and when I'm setting my goals at the beginning of each season. My father was right: If you don't push yourself as hard as you can, you'll never reach your potential.
I dedicated myself to practice that summer. Sometimes I hit balls until my hands ached, and I finally moved up from playing local to national tournaments. In the following year, 1987, I joined the Swedish National Team. That was the year I met a quiet, unassuming golf pro named Henri Reis.
Earlier that year the Swedish Federation held a district summer camp, choosing the best one or two girls from each club. I made the cut and Henri was my coach. I immediately was impressed by how he translated the complexities of the golf swing into simple language, and I saw instant results when I followed his advice. His course was just 20 minutes from my house, so once a week my parents would drop me off for a lesson, because it was vital for me to work with someone regularly. It was Henri's idea that I try a peculiar move I'm still known for today-turning my head toward the target before impact.
Was Henri blown away by my talent? Just ask him. He'll tell you that of all the young players he worked with, I never stood out. Other Swedes, including Carin Koch-now an LPGA star who to this day is still a good friend-were much better. At age 16, I loved golf, but I wasn't sure I could make it as a pro: I was shooting in the low 80s and hadn't broken par. Off the course, I was a math and computer enthusiast. I was considering becoming an engineer; sitting behind a computer suited my personality more than the very public life of a pro golfer. In school I never raised my hand, even when I knew the answers to teachers' questions. I could joke with people I knew well (my sister was often the brunt of my antics-I used to make my friend Maria sit on poor Charlotta while I tickled her), but the thought of performing for a crowd of strangers made my palms sweat. I can't count the number of times I three-putted on the final hole of a tournament-on purpose-so that I wouldn't have to give a victory speech. I thought the real reason for my three-putts-pure shyness-was my little secret. But some of the coaches were watching me and noticing my not-so-coincidental misses. So they announced that, at the next tournament, both the winner and the runner-up would have to give a speech.
I figured, what's the point of finishing second if I had to face the crowd anyway.
I won that tournament and never looked back. The coaches' trick was a key to my maturity:
I faced my fear and became better for it. But it was a lesson I would have to learn repeatedly-whether I was talking to the media or preparing to hit a tough shot. I also received some help from Pia Nilsson, a former LPGA player I met in the late 1980s when she worked with the Swedish National Team. Pia, like Henri, became part of my inner circle (see Chapter 11 for more information on her Vision54(tm) philosophy, which influences the way I play). She also was a frequent victim of my practical jokes. My favorite was the time a few of us players sprinkled itching powder on Pia's suit before the closing ceremonies at a tournament. She couldn't stop scratching that day-and we couldn't stop laughing.
With the Swedish National Team, I played junior tournaments in England, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. When I was 17, our team won the Junior European Championship, which brought me international attention. I had known that I was one of the better Swedish players, but that win gave me confidence. My increased prominence eventually led to an invitation to play in Japan, where the course of my life would change forever.
After high school, I practiced and worked part-time answering phones in the Swedish PGA office. I wasn't yet a college student, but since I planned to enroll in the fall of 1989, I was asked-along with Robert Karlsson, who now plays on the European PGA Tour-to represent Sweden in a collegiate event in Tokyo. During a match against a player from the University of Arizona, I caught the attention of Kim Haddow, the Arizona coach. After the round, Kim asked if I would like to play for Arizona on scholarship.
I spent all of three seconds deciding.
I wasn't nervous going 5,500 miles from Sweden to Tucson, Arizona. I had traveled the world with the national team, hadn't I? But I was worried about being homesick.
My mother came to the rescue. Her last words as I boarded the plane were, "Remember, Annika, it's as far to come back as it is to go over." She was telling me I could always fly home.
When my flight landed in Tucson on a 100-degree August day, I thought there was a storm-there was heat lightning everywhere, but no rain. I headed to the freshman dorm and met my new roommate, Leta Lindley, who's now an LPGA player, too. Leta had a computer, a TV, and just about everything else a college student could want. I had my golf bag, a toothbrush, and a command of English that wasn't too impressive. Culture shock set in when I couldn't remember the English words for simple things, like "blanket" and "pillow." Leta and her parents were incredibly nice. They took me shopping; I pointed and they interpreted.
I didn't take well to dorm life. I was a little older than most of the freshmen, and very independent. It was a party school, but for me the party began and ended on the course. While the other girls headed out for the weekend, I was hitting the sack after studying and practicing. Arizona golfers had so little free time that we usually spent Friday nights doing laundry.
I wanted to play against the best collegiate players, and being part of the Wildcats team was fun. But after years of being taught to think for myself, I disliked the restrictions set by the school and my coaches. We had tightly scheduled study periods and practices. Sometimes I had to raise my hand just to go to the bathroom. But a couple of things made me feel better: Because I was older, I was soon allowed to move into an apartment; and I won my first tournament, the Oregon Invitational. I tied with another Wildcat, Debbie Parks, and we shared the trophy.
In my first college season, I finished out of the top 10 only once, and won the NCAA Championship by one stroke over Christy Erb from UCLA. Since I didn't grow up in the U.S., I didn't realize the win's importance until I returned as a sophomore and everyone was talking about it. During my sophomore season I finished first four times and second three times in nine events. I ended that 1992 season as runner-up at the NCAA Championships behind the number-one college player in the country, Vicki Goetz. That's when I decided to leave school. I was still working with Henri and Pia, and I wasn't learning much from my coach. I decided that I'd accomplished all I could in college: College Player of the Year in 1991, NCAA All-American in 1991 and 1992. I was ready for a larger arena. But before turning pro, I played the U.S. Women's Amateur, where I lost in the finals to-you guessed it-Vicki Goetz. We were an exciting match-up, with my length balanced by her fabulous short game. It came down to the last hole, where I dunked a 6-iron shot in the water and lost by one stroke.
That was heartbreaking, but as runner-up I was invited to play in my first U.S. Women's Open, at the venerable Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh. To prepare I read up on Ben Hogan's win there in 1953-the year he almost won the Grand Slam. But my play was hardly Hoganesque. The greens were faster than anything I'd ever seen-I would have nine three-putts that week.
I was very impressed with the LPGA players. They dressed well, and had Tour golf bags and professional caddies. I got to hit balls on the range near Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan, and I played a practice round with Meg Mallon. Everything was so routine for them-they went from the range to the putting green to the first tee. They didn't goof around like we did in college, and I realized that for them golf was a job. That week I finished as the second-lowest amateur, tying for 63rd-respectable, but no one was going to start calling Oakmont "Annika's Alley."
Excerpted from Golf Annika's Way by Annika Sorenstam Excerpted by permission.
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