Annika, Phase 2
With professional golf behind her, Sorenstam moves forward on several fronts.
For more than a decade, Lake Nona resident Annika Sorenstam was the preeminent player in women’s professional golf, setting records for a number of victories (89, including 10 majors) and earnings ($22 million). Sorenstam retired from competitive golf in 2008, a move that precipitated the second phase of her life as a mother, golf-business executive and local advocate for children’s health and fitness. In an interview with Orlando magazine Editor Mike Boslet, the multi-dimensional Sorenstam seems more relaxed and forthcoming than the steely Swedish golf star who was as direct in post-tournament interviews as she was with her golf shots. She still doesn’t get out much, but as long as there’s an IKEA in Orlando there’s a chance of snagging her for an autograph.
OM: How is your son, Will, doing?
AS: He’s doing really well. He was born 13 weeks early. He is over 9 pounds, and he’s doing really well.
OM: And what was it that happened that caused premature labor?
AS: Placental abruption. It means the placenta is separating from the uterus wall, which happens, but not very often. Then we drove, you know, like lightning fast to [Winnie Palmer] hospital.
OM: Were you guys frantic?
AS: Oh, yeah.
OM: You have nerves of steel, though.
AS: [laughing] Yeah, but nerves of steel is when I feel like I have things under control, you know, a three-footer. I was bleeding heavily, so that freaks you out.
OM: And how long were you in the hospital after Will’s delivery?
AS: I went home after four days; Will after 57. He was born 2 pounds 12 ounces. So I didn’t want to take him home. He wasn’t ready. After four days, you hope he’s going to survive. Now he’s like a normal baby. Wait, normal, that doesn’t sound right.
OM: A full-term baby?
AS: Right. He is. He eats just like they do. Now, it’s normal. To be honest, the first week was touch and go. You know, is this little man going to survive? And what kind of injuries or what kind of disabilities is this kid going to have? Long-term, short-term? Are there any? I mean, because you don’t know. Is his eyesight going to develop? Is his brain going to grow? All these things….I mean, you don’t know
OM: Do you get the urge to play competitively again?
AS: No, I do not.
OM: Why is that?
AS: Because I am very busy with the family and the businesses that we do. And the business is golf. I get my golf fix every day. It’s the ANNIKA Academy. It’s the design of golf courses. It’s my ANNIKA Foundation. I mean everything is golf. I sit on boards. I don’t have to compete anymore. I don’t need it anymore to fulfill something.
OM: You’re also known to be a foodie, and you love to cook. Do you think that someday we’re going to have an Annika restaurant?
AS: Well, we’ve talked about it. Yeah, we’ve been very, very close to pulling the trigger.
OM: What would it be called?
AS: It could be ANNIKA’S. It could be, you know, my magical number, 59 [which she recorded, in 2001, as the lowest score in women’s professional golf].
OM: In the 11 years you’ve lived here, do you feel like you’ve really gotten out much in Orlando?
AS: No. The thing is, I’m at such a different phase in my life. I’ve been here for 11 years. The first eight years I traveled. I mean I didn’t even know my neighbors. So the next year or so, before we had the family, that’s when I was out a little bit more. Now I have family. Now I have other reasons not to go out.
OM: Your ANNIKA Foundation strives to encourage school kids here to exercise and live healthier lives. How do you motivate children to heed that advice?
AS: Different ways, obviously. I talk to them about the way I grew up, and how important sports were. You know, compete. When it comes to nutrition, I talk about the importance of what you put in you is what you become. So I talk about what you drink. I talk about what you eat. We talk about sun protection. I talk about the mental aspect, learning how to set goals, and having a vision of yourself. I talk about the importance of doing schoolwork. That to me is being healthy.
OM: Do you stay in contact with Tiger Woods at all? At one time you guys were friends.
AS: No, I haven’t spoken to him since–what do you call it?–Black Friday.
OM: Is that because you disapproved of his actions?
AS: I’m a friend of his ex-wife [fellow Swede Elin Nordegren] as well. I thought I knew the guy, and this is a different guy. I did not approve of it.
OM: Do you think Tiger can surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors? [Woods has won 14 majors.]
AS: I don’t think so, no. If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said absolutely. But I think everything that happened has really changed him as a man. He’s getting older, and the injuries are what I’m more worried about.
OM: Have you ever been to the IKEA store by the Millenia Mall?
AS: Yes, 50 times. I go there a lot. As a Swede, there’s a lot of things I like there: Swedish meatballs, cheese, herrings. They have candies, they have juices….Things I grew up with.
OM: So if you’re in IKEA, how many people recognize you?
AS: Many. I sign a lot of autographs at IKEA, and they ask me in the shop, ‘What should I buy?’ It’s almost as if they think I work there.
OM: If I wanted a private lesson from you at your ANNIKA Academy, how much would it cost?
AS: A lot of money [breaks out laughing].
OM: What do you do to relax? What’s a day like for Annika?
AS: I’m a homebody. I love to be home with my family. I love to cook, I love to have friends over, hang by the pool, barbecue and chat. . . . I do value my home, and I want it to look neat. I’m a neat freak, and I’m fairly organized.
OM: Why did we know that?
AS: I don’t know. That’s just how I am.