By Jennifer Weiler
During the USGA U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, Wells Fargo hosted an event for young ladies from The First Tee of the Sandhills to meet two greats of the game: World Golf Hall of Fame member and spokesperson for The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits, Annika Sörenstam, and current LPGA Tour player, Laura Diaz. They spent almost two hours with the junior golfers in the Member’s Clubhouse at Pinehurst, sharing insights and stories from across their golfing careers.
The format for the afternoon was open questions-and-answers, and the participants came prepared! They asked Annika and Laura questions ranging from what was the hardest course they ever played (to which Laura spread her arms and turned around facing the 18th green saying “Pinehurst #2!”) to asking whether they still got nervous when they played (both said yes!).
Annika and Laura encouraged the participants to always put their education first and to have fun while playing golf so they didn’t burn out. When asked which clubs they liked best, they both replied their wedges and they urged the girls to make sure to spend time practicing their short games.
Laura shared with the girls her background growing up in Western New York where her family owned a driving range and mini golf facility. She started out playing with her father at a young age, never dreaming of a career in golf. But as a young woman she realized this was a sport that she enjoyed and played well and ended up on the golf team at Wake Forest University. Since that time, she has been on the LPGA Tour since 1999 and has two career victories.
Annika told the girls that she started playing golf at age 12, originally thinking she’d love to be a professional tennis player. But golf won and she ended up moving to the U.S. from Sweden to play golf at the University of Arizona. The rest, as they say, is history, and with 72 career victories she is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
After the Q&A, the participants were treated to an autograph session and photos with the players. And after the event, the girls got to follow Laura as she played part of her practice round. It was definitely an afternoon of memories to last a lifetime.
Girls make up 37 percent of the participants at chapters, and The First Tee plans to increase the number of female participants to 45 percent by 2017. Through incredible opportunities like this one, The First Tee is actively engaging its female participants. The educational and athletic prospects open to female golfers are very promising. The First Tee will continue to help them succeed both on the golf course and throughout life.