Annika Sorenstam was a 21-year-old amateur, a University of Arizona star. She was in the U.S. Women’s Open for the first time in 1992; 24 years later, she remembers everything.
“I was 21 years old,” she told an audience of USGA members on Friday at the on-site Member Clubhouse at Oakmont. “I had read and heard so much about it. It seemed like such a big course to me. What an experience! I got to see Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan, Nancy Lopez, Dottie Pepper and all of these great players.
“At Oakmont, you schedule a tee time for practice. I was so nervous, I was trying not to embarrass myself,” she said. “I got to the first tee. There were all these people around. I wondered what was going on and I found out I was playing with Meg Mallon, the defending champion. I stayed quiet and picked up a lot of pointers.”
Sorenstam managed a 5-over-par 76 in the first round. She was so excited about getting her name on the leader board that she even left her new favorite place – the players’ locker room.
“I was in awe in the locker room. My heroes were everywhere, there was food everywhere – there was a frozen yogurt machine! That wasn’t anything I was used to,” she said with a laugh. “Somehow, my name was on the leader board. I went out and took a photo of it because I didn’t think I would up there much longer.”
Sorenstam finished T-63 with scores of 76-75-80-77–308; low amateur went to Vicki Goetze, who finished T-48 with a 301 total. Sorenstam said her caddie for the week was a friend, who went into the merchandise pavilion and got her a replica flag from the championship.
“He wrote, ‘One day you will win one of these.’ I still have that hanging in my house,” she said.
A few weeks later, she finished as runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, losing 1 up to Goetze. The rest is history. Sorenstam captured the 1995, 1996 and 2006 U.S. Women’s Open titles during a 15-year career in which she earned 90 victories worldwide on the way to becoming one of golf’s greatest champions. She sees parallels between her first U.S. Women’s Open experience and what the players in the 2016 U.S. Open are going through after heavy rains and lightning disrupted the first round.
“I had a long delay during the Women’s Open here,” she said. “If I hadn’t eaten frozen yogurt for 12 hours, I might have played better!”
Sorenstam said the players who adapt will succeed this year.
“It’s a challenge to handle a delay,” said Sorenstam, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003. “These players have prepared for the specific way the course will play – fast and firm – for the U.S. Open. Then, with a couple of delays, there is a change in the tempo and a change in the course. First, it was firm, then there was no roll. Playing Oakmont is draining, mentally and physically. There is nothing you can do about the disruption to your rhythm. The players can only try to control how they react to it all. They have to try to relax and not think too much.”
And stay away from the frozen yogurt…
David Chmiel is manager of member content for the USGA. Contact him at email@example.com.