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Sorenstam to Play Against the Men Again
Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam will compete again against male players. The winner of 89 international tournaments and over $22 million has agreed to play in the American Century Championship, which features celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds.
Sorenstam, a part-time resident of Lake Tahoe and mother of two, will play on even terms in the nationally televised, 54-hole, $600,000 competition at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Sorenstam, now 43, is 11 years removed from her memorable foray onto the PGA Tour at the 2003 Colonial Open in Fort Worth, Texas, where she missed the cut by three strokes. The native of Sweden retired from tournament play in 2008.
The event's scoring is a modified Stableford format based on a point system by hole, which suits Sorenstam just fine. "Once you get inside the ropes, I am competitive and I'm sure that's not going to go away," said Sorenstam. "I like the (Stableford) format. I'm playing from the same tees (as the men). Nowadays, I don't play stroke play, necessarily. So this will be a little different and I'm looking forward to it."
Celebrity entrants include John Elway, Ray Allen, Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Jerry Rice, Jason Kidd, Steve Young. Elway and Curry are expected on the leaderboard with eight-time winner Rick Rhoden, the former Big League pitcher who started 33 PGA Champions Tour events after turning 50 in 2003. Other contenders are Trent Dilfer, 2001 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens QB, former NHL star Jeremy Roenick and former NFL quarterbacks Mark Rypien and Billy Joe Tolliver.
"We expect Annika's participation to generate additional interest and buzz among fans, celebrities and media as we mark our 25th year in Lake Tahoe," said Gary Quinn, vice president, programming and owned properties NBC Sports. "She's an icon in the sport and has been a friend of the tournament for years.
"With her success and competitive nature, it should present a riveting dynamic for the tournament. The other celebrities will relish the opportunity to test their skills against her. Annika adds major star power to the most recognizable field in golf and yet another compelling entertainment component for viewers and fans in attendance."
In her only foray at Edgewood Tahoe in 2004, Sorenstam joined Michael Jordan, Donald Trump and Ahmad Rashad on the back nine during a practice round. She shot a 3-under 33 from the Blue (Men's) tees on a course she had never played.
Sorenstam started her golf career in 1995 and became the 13th player to capture the U.S. Women's Open as her first American victory. She spent 15 years on the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour, winning with consistency and pocketing 10 major championships. With her record six Vare Trophies; eight Rolex Player of the Year awards, Sorenstam is regarded as the greatest female golfer of the generation, and arguably the best of all-time.
"I have played the course before," added Sorenstam. "The location (Lake Tahoe) is amazing. It's kind of a narrow golf course and I don't think the distance is going to be (a big factor). My biggest thing nowadays is probably my accuracy on the smaller greens. I'm going to try to stay focused on golf and not the beautiful view."
Since retiring from the LPGA tour, Sorenstam has spent time with family and new business ventures. Since 2008, she has competed at the 2011 ADT Skills Challenge and the 2013 Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge.
The American Century Championship has raised over $4 million for scores of charities including UNCF, Autism Speaks, Mark Cuban's Fallen Patriot Fund, FDNY's Uniformed Firefighter Scholarship Fund and LIVESTRONG. In the wake of a 2007 Tahoe region fire, tournament players raised $485,000 for relief and rebuilding initiatives.
NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network will televise live all three rounds of the tournament, which will be played July 15-20.