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Sorenstam to cash in on Colonial appearance

Annika Sorenstam was just like 37 other players who teed it up at Colonial and left without making a dime.

Ultimately, she'll earn more than the $900,000 that Kenny Perry got for winning.

The decision to test herself against the men, and the poise with which Sorenstam handled the intense spotlight, should translate into marketing opportunities that few women athletes have ever seen.

``She came right out of central casting in terms of her ability to connect with everyday Americans,'' said David Carter, principal of Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group.

``If a company is looking for a spokeswoman as disarming as she is, with great credibility and her level of achievement, she has everything.''

Talks already are underway for an endorsement deal with Bank of America, the corporate sponsor of Colonial that helped pave the way for Sorenstam to become the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour.

A major deal with a soft drink company might not be far behind.

Just hours after Sorenstam missed the cut by four strokes, her agent at IMG was trying to gauge how much of an impact she made, and what the future holds.

``It's exponential. I don't know how you measure it,'' said Mark Steinberg, who is also the agent for Tiger Woods. ``She is far more marketable than she was four months ago, and she's far more marketable now than she was 72 hours ago.

``She would have been marketable regardless of what she would have done on the golf course, but the exponential number is because of the way she handled herself.''

When the economy started to sour, no one felt the repercussions like LPGA Tour players, many of whom couldn't even get a logo on their golf bags.

Sorenstam already had a large collection of sponsors.

She has been with Callaway Golf for 10 years, and the current deal is said to be worth at least $1 million when incentives kick in.

Callaway spokesman Larry Dorman said one study found that Sorenstam set a record for logo exposure at Colonial, not surprising since USA Network showed every hole she played.

``It was huge for us,'' Dorman said. ``We'll see if that somehow translate into increased sales, but one thing that is undeniable is that it raised Annika's profile far beyond what it ever was before. And because of our association, it raises our profile, as well.''

Callaway has her signed through the end of 2004, ``but I'm sure talks about a renewal will begin long before the expiration of that deal,'' Dorman said.

Sorenstam also is in the third year of a deal with Mercedes-Benz, whose logo appears on her shirt.

``In this situation, she resonated across age groups and genders,'' said Michelle Cevantez, vice president of marketing for Mercedes. ``A lot of that goes back to Annika and her personality. She's so endearing that you want her to do well. And the other piece of that is she trains so hard. She looks to excel at everything.''

Sorenstam also has endorsement deals with Cutter & Buck clothing, Oakley sunglasses, Microsoft and Kraft, which she signed earlier this year. She also signed with Golf magazine, and became the first woman in 26 years to make its cover in the May edition.

Steinberg even considered a book deal when Sorenstam made it known in January that she wanted to test herself on the PGA Tour.

``If we really want to capitalize on this, and we had a book coming out a couple of weeks from now, it would be a best seller,'' Steinberg said.

While some thought the Colonial was simply a publicity stunt, Carter says the fact IMG did not go over the top in promoting her PGA Tour experience is one of many reasons Sorenstam will be so appealing to advertisers.

By the end of the week, it wasn't just a gimmick.

Sorenstam tied for 96th among the 111 players who finished two rounds and she missed the cut by four shots.

Still, her opening round of 1-over 71 under extreme pressure legitimized her spot in the field, and it wasn't until a three-putt bogey on the 12th hole Friday that it was clear she would not make it to the weekend.

``She didn't have to make the cut, but it helped her to not be so far out of the mix,'' said Carter, who recently published a book called, ``On the Ball: What You Can Learn about Business from America's Sports Leaders.''

``For people buying a product that she's selling, that was a believable, authentic performance,'' Carter said. ``And that's what this boils down to. Was it a creation of the media, or was it authentic?''

Sorenstam will be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame at the end of the year. She has dropped hints that retirement is not far off, citing the desire to pour everything into being a chef or starting a family.

Her appeal might last longer than she plays. Sorenstam will be associated with the best of athletes, and their desire to set goals and push to achieve them.

``It says so much about her personality, and her willingness to try things,'' Cervantez said. ``Whether she pursues things outside of golf, she'll still be able to connect with people.''

There also will be a short-term payoff. Sorenstam was getting about $50,000 for corporate outings, an amount that one industry insider said will double because of Colonial.

``She just put herself in an echelon that very few others have been,'' Steinberg said. ``The only name that comes to mind is Serena (Williams). But the last four months, and particularly the last four days, Annika put herself on the map.''

And that could translate into several trips to the bank.


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