It's Raining. It's Pouring. But Annika is Soaring

It's Raining. It's Pouring. But Annika is Soaring

By Carson Racich


BELLEAIR, Fla - When it rains it pours. That's exactly what mother nature had in store for the 2023 ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican media day on Thursday. Heavy storms rolled in. Thunder and lightning were cracking. Despite mother nature's best efforts, that didn't stop the excitementin previewing the championship coming up in November at Pelican Golf Club.


Joining Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis on stage at Pelican Golf Club for media day was 2023 LPGA Tour winner and Tampa resident Elizabeth Szokol, the ANNIKA Intercollegiate winner and sponsor exemption Louise Rydqvist and 72-time LPGA Tour winner Annika Sorenstam.


In what has been a long time coming, Annika Sorenstam now has an LPGA tournament named after her with the message of “Lead with Legacy” rightfully behind it.


“It's hard to absorb all of this, to finally have my name on an LPGA tournament. I'm honored,” said Annika. “And to have the ANNIKA Foundation as one of the beneficiaries, it feels like all the pieces have finally connected.”


Annika, who was the first LPGA player to card a 59 in LPGA tournament competition and winner of 72 LPGA Tour events, stepped away from the game in 2008. Sorenstam did not want to walk away completely, however. She wanted to find a way to share her knowledge, passion and inspire the current and next generation. She founded the ANNIKA Foundation to help grow women’s golf. Now with having a premier LPGA tournament in her name, this continues her legacy in growing women’s golf and what she personally stands for.


South Carolina Gamecock Louise Rydqvist grew up in Sweden and is no stranger to Sorenstam's events. Playing in the ANNIKA Cup in Sweden, the ANNIKA Invitational in Europe and most recently the ANNIKA Intercollegiate in Minnesota, Rydqvist recognizes the opportunities that Sorenstam has provided for her and other female golfers.


“I’m sitting here getting to close the full circle [playing all of Annika’s events],” said Rydqvist. “This is surreal, overwhelming and I'm just super, super thankful to be here.”


Following her recent NCAA win at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, Rydqvist was presented with an exemption into The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican. While others may have their eyes on the trophy, Rydqvist has her expectations set in a different manner.


“It's a really strong field, so this is going to be a major learning experience for me. I'm just going to do my own thing and see how far I can go,” emphasized Rydqvist. “It'll be awesome to see where my game stands against the pros.”


In addition to the professional opportunity Rydqvist will fulfill, her fellow teammates will join her in the spring at The Pelican Golf Club for the SEC Conference tournament. Rydqvist will be able to take her experience and knowledge of the course to help her fellow Gamecocks to a conference championship.


“I have my assistant coach on the bag, and we will take this opportunity to see the course and develop a strong game plan for the spring. We will have a better idea of where to leave the ball and have a shot to win.” said Rydqvist.


Unlike Rydqvist who will be seeing the course for the first time, Elizabeth Szokol is no stranger to Pelican Golf Club. Current member and student of Justian Sheehan, director of golf at Pelican Golf Club, Szokol is ready to play her home course and put her game to the test in front of a large support system.


“I'm super excited, this event is my favorite of the year,” emphasized Szokol. “I don't have to pack a suitcase and can sleep in my own bed. We don't get to do that very often.”


Coming off her first LPGA win this summer at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, Szokol has a lot of optimism moving forward.


“The win was a major confidence booster, and it makes the next few years a little bit easier,” said Szokol. “This shows me that I can compete with the best players in the world, and I'm looking forward to doing that here.”


During the panel discussion, Annika was asked about her favorite moments in her career. While she was not focused on the scores she posted, she emphasized the greatest moments came from the journey, the experiences, and the people met along the way.


“When you have a dream, you set a goal and you achieve it,” said Annika.


Annika continued on, sharing advice not only for players but also for anyone in the position looking to do something out of the ordinary.


“Every time someone does something a little different, something that's a little bit unusual, it's easy to just say we don't like it, rather than looking at the big picture…once people understand that it's about bettering themselves and inspiring the next generation, they start to look at it differently,” said Annika. “We need more of that [pushing the limits], more positive and motivating stories”.


Annika Sorenstam sharing these stories and lessons is a prime example of why The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican slogan is ‘Lead with Legacy.’


October 16, 2023
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