Late last year, one Swedish LPGA player retired and another earned her tour card.
At first there were no guarantees Anna Nordqvist would have any other connection with Annika Sorenstam besides their shared country of birth. Last month at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, Nordqvist changed that in a big way.
A 22-year-old rookie, Nordqvist won the major championship held in Havre de Grace, Md., defeating Lindsey Wright by four strokes. This week Nordqvist is making her first appearance at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, just her seventh tournament as a professional.
"I told myself, the first year we're just going to take it a week at a time then we'll see what we're going to do," Nordqvist said. "A week can turn around a lot of things."
One of the tallest players on tour at 6-foot, Nordqvist grew up in Eskilstuna, Sweden, and was an All-American at Arizona State. Growing up she idolized Sorenstam, the LPGA's winningest player with 72 career victories in more than 15 years on tour. They have met a few times, and this year Nordqvist began working with Sorenstam's former swing coach, Henri Reis.
So it was fitting that Nordqvist gave some credit to Sorenstam for helping her win the LPGA Championship. Nordqvist opened the tourney with a career-best 66 and led the final three days of the tournament. Before Nordqvist began the final day at Bulle Rock, Sorenstam passed along a message to Nordqvist that said, "try and take one shot at a time and just enjoy it."
"It meant a lot to me just to know that you have the support behind you and that someone believes in you," Nordqvist said.
Nordqvist began the year on a conditional tour card, often attempting to qualify on Mondays at LPGA events. In May, she played at the Deutsche Bank Ladies' Swiss Open on the Ladies' European Tour.
She's not conditional any longer. That's good because she has more of a set schedule, but it also means she has additional responsibilities to handle during her rookie season.
Nordqvist was part of the Image Group Celebrity/Pro Challenge yesterday at Highland Meadows Golf Club, playing with entertainer Scott Record. She also played nine holes of a practice round beforehand.
"I have had a little bit more on my plate since the win," Nordqvist said. "I'm getting used to things, it's a learning experience. It makes it a lot of fun."
Whether Nordqvist can take the torch from Sorenstam as the next European star still remains to be seen. She's been thrilled about the support she's received from back home since the win, though.
"It's so much fun to hear that people are following you, people are watching," Nordqvist said.
Nordqvist realizes the vast change that winning the LPGA Championship has had on her career. But she's not going to dwell on the actual victory too much.
"I got a lot of positive things out of it," Nordqvist said. "I still have a lot to learn. That's why I'm here. I look forward to every week."
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