Sorenstam always had her feet planted on the ground - Emirates24|7

Sorenstam always had her feet planted on the ground

Surely I am not the most unbiased of people to write about Annika Sorenstam's retirement. As hard as I may try, this piece is destined to be indulgent.

At the outset, let me confess I am in awe of Annika, the Player, as well as Annika, the Person. I believe she is a champion and a superstar, both on and off the golf course.

So much so that when my wife and I became proud parents for the first time, we decided to name our daughter after Sorenstam. To endow her with as Scandinavian a name as Annika would have been a tad unusual in India, so we twisted it a bit, and named her Anyka (pronounced A-nai-ka).

Anyka can be proud of having one of the most unique names in the entire Subcontinent. I hope the origin of her name leaves her with a legacy, which can inspire her to even greater achievements.

When she stunned the world by winning eight tournaments on the LPGA Tour in 2001, I thought Annika was great. When she surpassed that and won 11 times in 2002, I thought she was the greatest. But it was the way she conducted herself while playing with the boys in the 2003 Colonial Classic, and the dignity she displayed, I was convinced she was that special, once-in-a-lifetime player – those who redefine greatness.

And as I kept reading endearing stories of her humility, I longed to meet her. And that chance came during the inaugural Dubai Ladies Masters two years ago.

One of the biggest perks of being a journalist is the relative accessibility to the stars. I got my chance to speak to Annika, and after finishing the interview, I just could not help but tell her about my daughter.

Even cynical, battle-hardened hacks like I know when a person is being genuine, and Annika was being just that when she said: "That's so sweet. I am so touched and honoured. You must bring Anyka here. I would really love to meet her."

And that is Annika's most impressive quality – despite her lofty achievements, her feet remain firmly planted to the ground.

Annika always maintained that matching Kathy Whitworth's all-time record of 88 LPGA Tour wins was never her aim, and she proved it announcing her retirement at a time when she had a real chance of obliterating that. With 72 LPGA titles already under her belt, and given the fact that she is just 37 and is again playing the kind of golf we are used to see her play, another 16 wins seems just two or three years away.

But that's Annika. She always did it her way. After Colonial, she received countless offers – some with serious appearance fee in Japan and Asia – but she stuck to her resolution of never competing against the men again.

Sad as I am to see her go, it is a matter of great fortune that I will be able to witness her farewell tournament, which will be in Dubai towards the end of the year.

 

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