By Hunki Yun
Museum Moment: The Symbol of Annika’s Historic Week
Oct 06, 2011
Betraying little of Fort Worth’s past as a frontier town and gateway to the Wild West, Colonial Country Club anchors a leafy enclave of the Metroplex. The approach to this Texas golf icon, the site of the 1941 U.S. Open, is a curved driveway that leads to the clubhouse entrance’s two-story portico framed by four white pillars.
This grand arrival builds anticipation for a memorable day on the layout designed by John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell. Opened in 1936, Colonial was one of the last gems of the Golden Age of golf course architecture and has hosted a PGA Tour event continuously since 1946 – the longest streak of any course.
Hometown hero Ben Hogan won the tournament, now known as the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, five times. Other top players to win at Colonial include Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson.
Nearly all the greats who have played at Colonial have been able to arrive via the driveway and walk through the front door. None arrived the way Annika Sorenstam did in 2003, when she became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945.
“We rented a house not too far from the course,” Sorenstam recalled. “On Monday, I wanted to go practice. We had an SUV, and I was lying on the floor so we could go through security. We drove right to the range and when I climbed out of the car, there was a sea of people.”
Sorenstam’s historic appearance generated a level of attention and adulation rarely experienced by any female golfer. At Colonial, the iconic representation of this support from the spectators (there were 50,000 on Thursday, double the usual number) took the form of thousands of green “Go Annika” pins that were sold that week.
Even fellow players such as Dean Wilson, who played with Sorenstam Thursday and Friday, wore them as an expression of solidarity. The following week, Golf World magazine used a photo of the pin on the cover. One of the original “Go Annika” pins is now displayed in the “Global Game” gallery at the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J.
“The pins were a good symbol for the week,” said Sorenstam. “I have some amazing memories, and I appreciated everyone’s support. I look back on my career and it was such a highlight.”
Sorenstam, who turns 41 on October 9, retired in 2008 following a career with numerous achievements: an LPGA Tour-record round of 59, three U.S. Women’s Open championships, 93 worldwide professional victories. But none shone as bright a spotlight on Sorenstam as her appearance at Colonial did.
Strangely, the buttons were the only Sorenstam-themed mementos from the tournament. The creator of the pins, Chris Rowe, wanted to commemorate her appearance but wasn’t optimistic when he made his sales projections.
“I didn’t think we could sell them,” said Rowe, who was at the time the first assistant golf professional at Colonial. He and three other assistants got together before the tournament and ordered 2,000 pins, which they planned to sell for $3 each. Colonial members and their families started buying them, and all 2,000 sold out by the Saturday prior to the event.
Because Rowe used a local company that could produce only a limited number of buttons –8,000 more during the week – the demand soared.
“We probably could have sold 50,000 of them,” said Rowe, who is now the head professional at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas. “It was like we were selling Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.”
The scene on Thursday surrounding the 10th tee (Sorenstam’s first hole) did evoke the crowds at a toy store during the Christmas shopping season. The anticipation and tension built to a crescendo as Sorenstam prepared to tee off.
“Breathe in, breathe out,” Sorenstam reminded herself, even while wondering whether her nerves would allow her to keep the ball on the tee prior to her drive. “The ball doesn’t know where you are.”
Sorenstam, of course, hit the fairway with her 4-wood and made par, the first of many in a round of 71. She shot 74 in the second round to miss the cut by four strokes, but the result hardly mattered. In many ways, her true achievement was the way her skill, courage and poise impressed and inspired millions of people around the world.
And all it took to convey their support was a simple pin with two words.
Hunki Yun is a senior writer of communications for the USGA. E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opened in 1936, Colonial was one of the last gems of the Golden Age of golf course architecture and has hosted a PGA Tour event continuously since 1946 – the longest streak of any course. (USGA Museum)
In 2003, Annika Sorenstam became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945. (USGA Museum)
Sorenstam, who turns 41 on October 9, is a three-time U.S. Women's Open champion, winning in 1995, 1996 and 2006. She retired in 2008 following a career with numerous achievements including 93 worldwide professional victories. (USGA Museum)