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Play It Again, Annika
by April Whitney
25 May 2003
Annika Sorenstam boldly opened
doors for women in golf, but inexplicably will not walk through those doors
that she opened. She now has an open invitation to return to the Colonial,
but has stated point blank that she will not do this again. I just don‘t
may be the only person in America who is unhappy with the results of Annika
Sorenstam‘s dramatic and historic journey through a PGA tour event.
The problem is not the way she played in the Colonial this week; I was more
than thrilled with that. She played exceptionally well, considering
it was her first time playing in a men’s event and she was under such intense
media scrutiny. Nor was the problem the way she handled herself.
She was poised, focused and determined, even when her game began slipping
away from her on Friday. She played like a professional and a champion
right to the end.
One can only imagine how well she might have done absent the chaos, or how
well she might do in the future with a few more PGA tour events under her
belt. But we may never know, and that is what infuriates me.
Annika boldly opened doors for women in golf, but inexplicably will not walk
through those doors that she opened. She now has an open invitation
to return to the Colonial, but has stated point blank that she will not do
this again. I just don‘t get it.
I do not understand a world-class top-notch athlete who takes on an enormous
personal challenge yet leaves it incomplete. She said she was overcome
with emotion because she wanted to keep playing; she did not want it to end.
So wouldn’t it make sense for her to try again next year, or in another tournament?
It seems to me she could only improve with practice, so why not give it a
shot? The fans would love it: those standing ovations she received
at the Colonial are sufficient proof of that. The sport of golf would
benefit greatly from it; I know I am not the only person who is decidedly
not a fan of golf but who was planted in front of the television set this
week. And she would benefit from it too, wouldn’t she? Making
a niche for herself playing with the boys and doing it well…I just don‘t
see how that could be a negative experience for her.
I do not understand her motivation, but must concede that it is her career,
and she is free to make her own choices. She entered this tournament
for herself and does not owe the rest of us anything. But what makes
the whole situation even worse is one line that she said when discussing
her decision not to play in another men’s event.
She actually uttered the following words: “I know where I belong.”
She may have meant the LPGA, but with that terminology she might as well
have been referring to the kitchen or the laundry room, or any other location
where men like to keep women in their place.
Annika! Hello!?!? Did you happen to notice what you did this
week? In two days of doing what you do best, you proved to just about
everyone, including countless skeptics, that you belong on any golf course
that you want to play! You met your personal challenge, and earned
immense respect from your colleagues in the process. Isn’t that the
point of what you were trying to do? Didn’t you want to see if you
could play a men’s course and hold your own? I’m not sure if you noticed,
but you did just that!
I believe you belong wherever you want to play, but once again I must accept
that it is your choice. In the meantime, whether you intended
to or not, you carried the hopes of female athletes on your shoulders, and
you may have dashed some of their dreams with that comment. If the
world’s greatest female golfer doesn’t belong on the PGA tour, who does?
How can you encourage less accomplished women to give it a try, if you’ve made
it so clear where you “belong?” Where do they belong, Annika?
Next time you put yourself in a position from which you can influence those
who admire you, perhaps you should choose your words more carefully.
When you chase your dreams in the public eye, you are not alone. The
young girls and women who followed your journey want to know where they belong.
Women athletes belong in sports, at the highest level at which they can compete!
Thanks for showing us that, Annika. Now can you please tell us too?
April Whitney is an attorney in Washington, DC.
Email April Whitney
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