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Turning back the clock, Annika dusts off her clubs (with Nicklaus and Player by her side)

May 6, 2018

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Full-time mother and businesswoman Annika Sorenstam returned to professional golf Saturday.

For one day, anyway.

The 10-time major winner played alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in a best-ball at the 3M Legends of Golf at the Inspirity Champions Tour event outside of Houston, while also celebrating the 15-year anniversary of her historic PGA Tour appearance at Colonial.

Her appearance marked only her second public tournament round since she retired in 2008, and her first-ever round with both Nicklaus and Player.

“I was thrilled when I got the call to play, but my first thought was, ‘Where are my clubs and where is the range?'” Sorenstam said. “I don’t play hardly any golf now with kids and work; that’s why I got this blister on my hand from practicing.”

Sorenstam was eager to impress her equally famous and accomplished partners while playing from the same tees. After high-fiving fans lining the fairway ropes, some of which were wearing the green, ‘Go Annika’ buttons, which were hot sellers during her 2003 appearance on a sponsor’s exemption at Colonial, she rolled in a short birdie putt on the par-4 1st.

“Wow, that’s awesome,” Sorenstam said of the fans who paid tribute to the week when she became the first female to play in a men’s tournament since 1945. “It just warms my heart that so many remember that. That was the highlight of my career no doubt. The tournament at Colonial, shooting 59 in competition, and getting into the World Golf Hall of Fame. That’s the top three for sure.”

Sorenstam wasn’t thrilled with her round Saturday — “I played crappy,” she said — but that was beside the point. The team of Sorenstam, Nicklaus and Player finished tied for second at 10 under at the former longtime site of the Houston Open.

Each legend showed a little rust from their lack of competitive play but contributed enough shots — especially a few dynamite Sorenstam approaches — to keep the large crowd, which followed them on a sunny Saturday, entertained.

The legends teams headed by Fuzzy Zoeller and Hale Irwin tied for first at 12 under.

After retiring from competition, Sorenstam married Mike McGee, the managing director of the Annika brand of companies. They have two children — Ava and William, who are entering their first Drive, Chip and Putt competition this year — and left golf far behind.

“Annika doesn’t do social golf, she is way too competitive for that,” Mike said.

Both kids were on site Saturday to see how their mother used to play golf as well as anybody in the world. Dad was on the bag.

“One of the reasons we brought these guys today was to show them what I used to do for a living,” Sorenstam said. “I couldn’t be a full-time mother and a full-time player. I had to give total concentration to whatever I was doing at the time, but it’s fun to come out here as a family and play golf and hear all these guys’ stories.”

Sorenstam, Nicklaus and Player flew to Texas together from Florida on Thursday, played in a sponsor outing Friday and dined together that night.

“There wasn’t a lot of pre-game strategy talk on the jet coming over, just to have fun, but it’s great they asked a lady pro golfer,” Player said. “I think Annika has played with Jack and she has played in an event with me and we had talked about all playing together, but it was nice to finally do it.”

Sorenstam said the one-day return to her professional golfing roots wasn’t likely to spur her forward to any additional golf, but she was happy to use the occasion to reminisce about her two PGA Tour rounds at Colonial.

“Wow, 15 years seems like so long ago, but every time I return to Texas, a big smile comes over my face,” she said. “That was such a great experience for me, one I trained so hard for, and helped me carry on for so many future successes.

“That was my life then and kids and business are my life now,” she said. “I have a great life now.”