Golfing legend Annika Sorenstam, 51, to play Midland LPGA event, but don't call it a comeback

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Annika Sorenstam won 72 times on the LPGA, third-most all-time. That haul included 10 major championships, tied for fourth all-time. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

And she did all that before turning 40.

Sorenstam shockingly retired from competitive golf in her prime in 2008, and only recently resurfaced since turning 50 — playing a couple of LPGA events, including the U.S. Women's Open earlier this month, over the last year.

Her career revival will continue next month in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Midland. Tournament officials announced this week Sorenstam will play with fellow Sweden native Madelene Sagstrom in the two-person team event.

Annika Sorenstam will play the LPGA next month at the Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Midland.

The news could be a major boon, particularly with ticket sales, for the young LPGA tournament, which debuted in 2019, was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then returned in 2021. The Great Lakes Bay Invitational is the state's second of two LPGA stops, after the Meijer LPGA Classic, which, over eight playings near Grand Rapids, has become of the tour's most popular regular-season stops.

"This is a fun format," Sorenstam, 51, said Wednesday. "I think this is super-exciting. And you know me, it's just the way it is, I am super competitive. I'm just trying to do the best I can every time I show up.

"I'm very appreciative of this."

Sorenstam, who was dominating the women's game when Tiger Woods was dominating the men's game, retired in 2008 to focus on her family and her business ventures.

She returned in 2021 for the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio, making the cut — shocker; she's made 298 of 307 cuts on the LPGA — before finishing 74th. She then played the U.S. Senior Women's Open, and won by eight shots. That got her into the U.S. Women's Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco in early June, when she missed the cut.

The Great Lakes Bay Invitational will be her third sanctioned LPGA tournament since retirement, though she's refusing to call this a comeback. Golf used to be what she did sun up to sun down. Golf now is something she does when she's not raising a family or running her foundation.

In any event, her participation was quite welcome news for Dow officials.

"Obviously huge," said Chris Chandler, executive director of the tournament, who said he'd received more than 100 text messages since the Sorenstam announcement was dropped Tuesday. "To put on an event and have arguably the greatest player ever to come play your event is obviously very exciting and a huge honor. It's huge news for our region, and we hope that the fans really come out in support."

The Great Lake Bay Invitational also will feature another World Golf Hall of Famer — Karrie Webb, 47, a 41-time winner on the LPGA with 10 majors to her credit. She was Sorenstam's prime rival during their prime years, and she will team up with Marina Alex. Sorenstam and Webb will compete in an LPGA tournament together for the first time since 2008.

The tournament will feature 72 teams, 144 players overall, with a $2.5 million purse.

The Sorenstam-Sagstrom pairing was a natural one, and one that Sagstrom had hoped would come together in 2021, but Sorenstam had other commitments and couldn't play. 

"I was hoping I would get that rain check," she said, with a laugh.

Of course she did.

As a teen growing up in Sweden, though, Sagstrom could've never imagined teeing it up in the same tournament with her idol, let alone playing in a tournament with her.

"No way she would've believed you," Sagstrom, 29, who broke through with an LPGA win at Gainbridge in 2020, said of her younger self, before talking about the friendship that has developed. "I looked up to her so much, even more so now. She's really been letting me in and helping me so much with my game. It's been bigger than I could've ever imagined it to be. I can't thank her enough for that.

"I get to play with my childhood star, just doing things I just thought I was gonna do.

"A dream come true."

The two first met many years ago, when Sagstrom was just a youth golfer, before Sorenstam, as Europe's captain in the 2017 Solheim Cup, made her a captain's pick despite not having yet won on the LPGA.

The friendship has grown significantly since then, even with the occasional friendly round of golf.

Sorenstam recalled one round in particular, when she thought she had played pretty well — and Sagstrom had beaten her by six shots over nine holes. Sagstrom shot 30. Sorenstam, who in the prime of her career even teed it up on the PGA Tour, went home and told her kids about the end result, and they weren't impressed.

Sorenstam and Sagstrom decided to tee it up again a couple of weeks later.

"I left the breakfast table and the rules were clear," said Sorenstam, who will play this week in a celebrity tournament in Nevada, then Midland, and then the LPGA Senior Championship in Kansas the week after that. "She wasn't beating me by six again or I wasn't welcome back."

Added Sagstrom: "She did beat me that last time."

Neither's beating the other, of course, when they tee it up July 13-16 at Midland Country Club, where they'll be playing together — even though they haven't yet come up with a team name.

Might we suggest one that works for them, and for Dow in the wake of this week's announcement.

How Swede It Is.

Great Lakes Bay Invitational

When: July 13-16

Where: Midland Country Club

Defending champions: Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn

Tickets: Details at

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984