by Beth Murrison
Museum Moment: Annika's Last Shot
May 13, 2010
It is a well-known photograph in the USGA Archive – a scenic shot of Annika Sorenstam hitting her approach shot to the 18th green at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open.
It is also a great example of how a little luck and being in the right place at the right time can go a long way.
At the 2008 Women’s Open, I was walking with the leaders, Inbee Park and Helen Alfredsson, with John Mummert, our staff photographer. The more popular players attract a large number of photographers, and part of our duties in the communications department is to monitor the media traffic inside the ropes.
Over the years, this had given John and me many opportunities to enjoy the era’s greatest female player in action. For Annika, these included what were no doubt some frustrating moments – in 2002 at Prairie Dunes, when Juli Inkster shot a final-round 66 to beat Annika by two; at Pumpkin Ridge in 2003, when she bogeyed No. 18 to miss a playoff by one stroke; losing to Meg Mallon’s final-round 65 at The Orchards in 2004. And then 2005, when she won the first two LPGA majors of the season and arrived at Cherry Hills Country Club with great expectations but finished tied for 23rd.
But there had been great triumph as well – most notably in 2006, when she won a playoff over Pat Hurst at Newport Country Club to finally claim her third Women’s Open title after an 11-year drought. There were also countless memorable shots and moments that made Annika a player to watch, regardless of her position on the leaderboard.
Early in the 2008 season, Annika announced that she would retire at the end of the year. So at Interlachen, on the afternoon of June 29, 2008, she teed it up for the final time at the Women’s Open. It was an emotional and difficult day for the three-time champion, who was in jeopardy of shooting 80 for the first time since her first Women’s Open appearance, as an amateur in the 1992 championship.
Despite her final-round struggles, John and I wanted to witness Annika playing her last hole in the Women’s Open. It’s not every day a legend calls it a career in the national championship. We wanted to enjoy the moment as she bid the championship farewell, and be there just in case she did something magical, as we had seen so many times before.
And that’s exactly what she did.
After leaving the leaders and cutting across a few holes at Interlachen, John and I caught up to Annika’s group. At the par-5 18th, she hit her tee shot far to the right and needed to punch out to the fairway, leaving 199 yards to the hole. Looking over the water hazard toward the elevated 18th green, Interlachen’s beautiful clubhouse and a grandstand full of spectators awaiting her final shot, Annika hit a 6-iron. We all watched as her ball disappeared up the hill. It was impossible to follow the ball other than to know that it had landed on the green, and that the roar of the crowd was building.
Incredibly, the ball rolled into the hole for an eagle, setting off a wild celebration, perhaps the loudest we have ever heard at a Women’s Open. It also set off a wild scramble for the photographers, as they sprinted up the fairway to capture one final shot of Annika, removing her ball from the hole and tossing it to the crowd. It was an amazing moment, a fitting finale for a special champion.
And a stroke of luck for the media relations staffer and the photographer who just happened to be at the right place at the right time to capture history.
Beth Murrison is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.
It is a well-known photograph in the USGA Archive – a scenic shot of Annika Sorenstam hitting her approach shot to the 18th green at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. (USGA Museum)
It also set off a wild scramble for the photographers, as they sprinted up the fairway to capture one final shot of Annika, removing her ball from the hole and tossing it to the crowd. It was an amazing moment, a fitting finale for a special champion. (USGA Museum)