In front of a packed room of eager spectators, Annika Sorenstam took her seat to sign autographs alongside fellow LPGA legends Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley on Saturday at the 3M Championship in Blaine.
She was soon joined by two people far more important in her life: daughter Ava and son Will.
Sorenstam did not stop smiling for the next 25 minutes, with Will perched on her lap and Ava happily doodling at the table on one of her mother’s autograph cards.
Hours later little Will ran onto the 18th green and was scooped up higher than a championship trophy. It was Sorenstam’s highlight.
“This is why I stepped away,” Sorenstam said, referring to her retirement in 2008 at age 37 after 72 LPGA victories and 10 majors to start a family. “So to come to something like this without them doesn’t really make sense. I want them to see what their mama does — or used to do.”
Sorenstam, Bradley and Lopez appeared at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine as part of the 3M Championship’s Greats of Golf exhibition, the first women to appear in the event’s 10-year history. If the crowds were any indication the addition was an immediate hit.
“It’s a golf-knowledgeable town,” Sorenstam said of the three-deep spectators behind the driving range. “A lot of great courses around. Plus it’s a bit of a Swede area. The golf, the terrain, the people. I’ve always loved coming here.”
Sorenstam tied for 24th at Interlachen Country Club in Edina in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. It was her final major on U.S. soil.
“The good grass, hitting some good shots, this brings back a lot of memories,” she said Saturday.
But neither that nor the countless peks on the cheek she received from Arnold Palmer — Team LPGA’s captain for the event — for every good shot made while on the course throughout the exhibition is enough to bring her back competitively.
“I don’t have a crystal ball but I don’t see myself doing much more than this,” Sorenstam said. “I mean, I love the game and I’ll always have my foot in the game one way or another.
“It’s one thing to come here, dabble and laugh. But it’s such a different level than serious competition where you have to work every day.