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Local golfers weigh in on Annika

By By Jared Florreich / staff writer
May 23, 2003
Intense scrutiny and immense pressure awaits Annika Sorenstam as she competes this week in the Colonial.
Not only will she have scores of media analyzing her every move, many feel that her appearance in the Colonial this week is nothing more than a publicity stunt, bringing a circus like atmosphere.
Sorenstam, who received a sponsor's exemption to get into the tournament, said she is only testing her skills against tougher competition, and wanted to challenge herself.
Annika's motivation didn't sit well with PGA golfer Vijay Singh. He said she should stick to playing the LPGA tour, and said he hopes she misses the cut. Singh also said if he was paired with Annika, he would withdraw.
Singh did withdraw last week, saying that he was tired of playing four straight tournaments. Singh, known for his tireless practice efforts, was likely looking for an excuse to escape the media madness.
Sorenstam will beat a lot of men this week. A lot of men do not want to lose, or look bad to a woman.
It is unfortunate that some have this perception. Women athletes are just as competitive as men, in all sports. There are obviously different strength and skill levels, but competitiveness between men and women is closer than a lot of people think.
Babe Zaharias became the first female to play in a PGA tour event in 1945. Suzy Wahley qualified for the PGA tour event Greater Hartford Open later this year by winning a PGA of America section event, even though she did not play from the men's tees.
Annika, however, will play from the same tees as the men. Her lack of distance of the tee, 266 yards on average, will be a disadvantage. Hank Kuhene leads the PGA Tour in driving distance with a 315.3 yard average.
Case in point, number four at Colonial is a 246 yard par 3. Sorenstam hit driver during a practice round Tuesday and missed the green. It didn't matter, she chipped in for birdie.
Another disadvantage is the weather. It's been raining all week at the Colonial, meaning Sorenstam won't get much roll on her drives. But if she does what she did Tuesday on number four, perhaps her lack of length isn't so much of a question.
Annika says she fully expects to make the cut, and Northwood Country Club head pro Jimmy Gamblin said he thinks Annika will.
Joe Corbitt, operator of Okatibbee Creek Driving Range and Course said he wasn't sure if Sorenstam could make the cut.
Lamar head golf coach Mac Barnes had a different opinion.
Michelle Wie, a phenomenal 13-year-old female golfer, hits the golf ball further than some men over twice her age. In future years, she will follow in Annika's footsteps and play in numerous PGA events, hopefully without the media hoopla and nervous men.