Annika Sorenstam Turning Heads in the Heartland
By: Kate Scott
(Cape Girardeau, MO)--What does all the hype over Annika Sorenstam mean to people in the Heartland?
If nothing else, it's definitely giving them something to talk about. Whether you’re a golf fan or not, it seems everyone is watching the world’s top woman golfer go head to head with the top men. But perhaps no one is watching the historic tournament more closely, and getting more out of it, than women athletes.
“This is a big weekend,” says Cape Girardeau golf pro Sabrina Tate. “If she (Sorenstam) makes the cut, we'll all be right inside the pro shop watching the TV like we've been doing the last couple days. We're excited about it!” Tate is the head pro at Cape's Jaycee Municipal Golf Course. She's also a member of the LPGA’s Teaching and Club Professional Division. But since she first took up the sport ten years ago, Tate's never been so excited about women in the world of golf. “It's great,” she declares. “Not too many women would do this, so I’m pretty impressed with her. I think it takes a lot of guts to do it.”
Across the river in Carbondale, Diane Daugherty is also keeping a close eye on Sorenstam’s PGA debut. “And little kids may be watching it on TV and want to play golf,” she adds. “So it's just been great for women in sports and the whole field of golf.” Not only is Daugherty the head women's golf coach at SIU, as a touring member of the LPGA, she's also played in the same tournaments as Sorenstam. She clearly understands the challenge that Sorenstam is now facing, by stepping out of the world of women's golf and into the very different world of men's. “The PGA is better than the LPGA,” says Daugherty without hesitation. “The men are stronger. They play longer courses. Nobody's going to question that they’re better. Annika's going to be thrilled if she makes the cut. It means that she can compete with them.”
And if it means that woman can compete with men, who's to say other women athletes won't follow, breaking ground in other sports? Perhaps Heartland women like Saxony Lutheran High School freshman Lauren Lueders will follow in her footsteps. Lueders has already spent her first year in high school hooping it up, and holding her own, on the boys' team. “I think it's going to pave the way for those behind her,” predicts Tate.