Annika Sorenstam on The Royal Club, the state of women’s golf and LIV’s potential impact – Twin Cities

The most iconic figure in women’s golf was back in Minnesota this week, hosting her annual collegiate fall golf tournament — the Annika Intercollegiate, which brings 12 of the top women’s college teams in the nation to The Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo.

Sorenstam watched the conclusion of the event from near the 18th green on Wednesday. It was the culmination of an action-packed week that included a welcome dinner, a youth clinic and a trip to a Twins game. It’s all part of an overall experience that makes the tournament such a draw for teams across the country, which lures the nation’s best to Minnesota every fall.

Sorenstam has hosted the event since 2014, always at the course she helped design; Sorenstam mapped out the front nine, and the late Arnold Palmer designed the back nine.

The Pioneer Press caught up with Sorenstam on Wednesday to discuss the event, the course and the state of the game.

What’s your favorite part of coming back and hosting this tournament?

AS: “Hanging out with the players, yeah, just hanging out with the teams. And of course, I enjoy them playing (the course) — the course is half mine — so it’s fun to see teams year after year and be able to give back. It’s pretty cool.”

Has this course played out how you envisioned it would?

AS: “I think so, yeah. They were having a hard time on the front nine, and I said, ‘Why?’ (Laughs) Just kidding. But the course is really growing. This is five or six years, things are coming together, you see the fescue, things are starting to settle and it’s become more of just a mature course, so it looks better every time.”

Is it fun to watch your course grow up?

AS: “It is, but you’re always looking at what could I have done better, what could I have done with this? But overall, it’s been appreciated and people are happy. I spoke to the people here and it’s always busy, people have great things to say and it’s become a great destination for people — the Par 3 course. I don’t know, it’s a fun place to be.”

What do you think of the talent level right now in the college game?

AS: “I think women’s golf is in great shape — college golf, especially. I mean, you have 12 of the best teams here. You see they’re mature, polite, they’re respectful, they hit it a long way. They’re just very complete, and it makes me proud to be associated with women’s golf, because I think they’re great ambassadors and, in a lot of ways, influencers and role models. To have someone like 3M to be a part of it, I think that says a lot.”

We’re seeing a lot of change in golf in general right now. What do you hope the women’s game looks like in these next two to three years?

AS: “Of course, I would love to see the women’s tour grow and increase the experience, if that means courses, that means exposure, that means purses, everything about women’s golf to continue to elevate. Golf is in a funny spot right now, but I think women’s golf is very solid and consistent for now, so maybe we can capitalize on some of the changes and show this is kind of the product that we have.”

Is that where LIV Golf can be a force to drive some of those changes in women’s golf?

AS: “Yeah, I mean they’re talking about somehow getting into women’s golf. I don’t know what really means.”

Nobody seems to know. We’re kind of waiting and seeing.

AS: “Right, so I hope it’s for the good way.”

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