She’s the only woman to ever break 60 in a golf round (I’d be pumped if that was my score after nine holes—not 18!). She challenged fellow golf pro Fred Funk to a bet about hitting the longest drive—and won—forcing him to wear a skirt for a hole (“we still laugh about it today,” she says).
But what is making Annika Sorenstam most professionally proud today? The ANNIKA Foundation and The ANNIKA Academy, groups she founded to introduce young golfers to the game and pass along advice to current players. We spoke with Sorenstam last week to learn more about these programs and what she’s been up to since she officially retired from the sport in 2008.
How did you get your start with golf?
My parents introduced me and we lived five minutes away from a course. I played all kinds of sports as a kid, so golf wasn’t my sole passion at the time. My love for it grew from there, though.
When you first hit the pro circuit, you were a lot shier than you are today. How did you overcome this?
As an amateur, this affected my game [Editor's Note: Sorenstam has admitted that, as a junior, she delibertely placed second in some tournaments to avoid giving a victory speech.], but when I won the U.S. Open in 1995, I learned quickly. I knew I needed to communicate and interview better if I wanted to inspire others and be a leader. I do feel very comfortable with who I am and what I am trying to say now. I keep in mind that I’m talking passionately about things I know, and have the facts to back it up. It’s all about trusting your abilities.
How are your business ventures like sports?
I approach business like golf—with focus and with goals. I work very hard at both, surround myself with good people and try to be patient.
What do you do for exercise today and how does this compare to what you did when you were competing?
When I was on the tour, in addition to my work on the course, I dedicated three to five days a week to planned strength workouts. I would track how long and how much I was lifting so I could keep seeing my progress. Now I have other priorities. But I still exercise to feel good and have “Annika time.” I like to swim and still lift weights.
You played one tournament on the men’s tour. How did it compare to the women’s circuit?
I only did it once, but I learned a lot about myself. It was an important moment in my career and development. The whole experience was about focus, expectations and daring to do what you don’t think you can.
What are the most memorable moments of your career?
It’s really hard to single one event out. Shooting a 59 in 2001 was great and it was amazing to get inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside my role models.
You have a young daughter. Would you like to see her become an athlete too?
Sure! I support and guide her and give her the resources, but leave it up to her to run with it.
More from FITNESS: