Annika Sorenstam inducted into Hall of Fame
Annika Sorenstam won the U.S. Women's Open nine years ago and figured there was nothing left for her to achieve.
From the career Grand Slam to an historic appearance at the Colonial on the PGA Tour, she left an indelible mark on golf in an amazing journey that led to her induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday night.
``How lucky can I be?'' Sorenstam said. ``I'm living a great life and following my dreams.''
Sorenstam, the first foreign-born player to get into the Hall of Fame through the LPGA Tour, was inducted along with Nick Price, Japanese pioneer Chako Higuchi and the late Leo Diegel, a two-time PGA champion.
The spotlight was on Sorenstam and Price, who earlier this year were linked by the Colonial -- Sorenstam saw it as the ultimate challenge, while Price saw it as a publicity stunt.
They shared the stage at the World Golf Village in a ceremony that increased to 100 the membership in the Hall of Fame.
Price won 41 times around the world, including three majors, and is equally revered as one of the most congenial players in golf.
``The good guys don't always win, but Pricey sure did,'' Nick Faldo said in videotaped remarks.
Higuchi became the first Japanese player to win a major at the 1977 LPGA Championship, and she is the first from her country to be enshrined. Along with 82 career victories, she runs the Japan LPGA Tour, which now conducts 30 tournaments.
Diegel was an exquisite shotmaker with a peculiar putting style, his elbows extended on both sides with his forearms parallel to the ground. He won 31 times, including consecutive titles in the PGA Championship (1928-29).
The induction capped an incredible year for Sorenstam.
She won two majors, the LPGA Championship in a playoff and the Women's British Open in a back-nine duel with Se Ri Pak, to complete the career Grand Slam. She starred in a European victory at the Solheim Cup, played for the first time in her native Sweden.
What everyone will remember is the Colonial, where she became the first woman in 58 years on the PGA Tour.
Las Vegas bookmakers predicted a first-round score of 76. Under enormous pressure, Sorenstam had a birdie putt on every hole and shot a respectable 71. She followed with a 74 to miss the cut by five shots, but emerged as a one-name star for her courage and poise.
``If you measure a year in the amount of victories, last year I won more tournaments,'' said Sorenstam, who won 13 events worldwide in 2002. ``But the experiences I had this year, and obviously Colonial, that's the greatest thing that will ever happen to me.''
She also paid tribute to Ron Sirak of Golf World magazine, who wrote after the Colonial that her performance changed her from a female golfer to simply a golfer.
``That's all I ever aspired to be,'' Sorenstam said.
She recalled her first victory, at the '94 U.S. Women's Open, and asking IMG agent Mark Steinberg, ``What do we do now?''
Along with the career Grand Slam, Sorenstam has won 47 times on the LPGA Tour and two years ago became the first woman to shoot 59 in competition.
Former LPGA Tour commissioner Charlie Mechem, who introduced Sorenstam and wore a ``Go Annika'' button that was sold at Colonial, said he was asking others what he should say about the methodical Swede.
He said his successor, Ty Votaw, summed it up best.
``Annika has taught us that it isn't enough to be as good as we once were, but to always strive to be better than we ever thought we could be,'' he said.
Sorenstam, 33, was the third-youngest player to be inducted, behind Mickey Wright (30) and Nancy Lopez (32).
``I do feel today that I'm playing as good as ever,'' she said. ``Hopefully, I haven't reached my peak yet.''
Price, 46, is in the twilight of his career, although he is still a threat. He is 17th on the PGA Tour money list at $2.1 million and No. 11 in the world ranking.
Price was as dominant as Jack Nicklaus before him and Tiger Woods is now. He won nine times in 15 months, including three major championships.
Despite his 41 wins worldwide, Price said he wanted to be remembered as someone who treated others well -- a lesson he learned from his mother.
``To sit and listen to a huge cross-section of people and life, be it a homeless person or a president, that is a gift,'' Price said. ``That's something I always try to do, have that empathy for people.''
Price honored his late caddie, Jeff ``Squeeky'' Medlin, who died in 1997 of leukemia.
``Without his presence in my life, I doubt I could be here now,'' Price said.
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