By: Amanda Herrington (@AJGAAmanda), AJGA Communications
It’s been six years since Annika played in her last professional tournament, closing a career that included 72 LPGA victories, 10 major wins and eight Rolex Player of the Year Awards, the most of any female golfer. Most of the girls playing at this week’s ANNIKA Invitational were the age of eight or younger when she retired from golf. However, ask any player in the field and it is clear that Annika’s legacy is larger than ever.
A promise to Annika
“I’m speechless. She is a legend and she is the reason I wanted to play golf,” said Gabriela Coello.
A year ago, Coello, 15, came to the ANNIKA Invitational as a spectator. This time, she is in the field.
“I worked so hard to get here. Last year, my coach brought me to the tournament because he knew how much I look up to Annika. I took a picture with her and told her how much she inspired me and I told her that I would compete here next year,” said Coello.
Coello stuck to her word. She joined the AJGA, finished top six in all four stroke play events and advanced to match play at the Polo Golf Junior Classic – earning her ticket to the ANNIKA Invitational.
China’s Rong Ji won the ANNIKA Invitational at Mission Hills to secure her spot in the field.
“Annika is a legend and an idol who inspires so many players,” Ji said. “I personally felt motivated by her presence at the event in China. She was sharing her passion, signing my t-shirt, giving out awards. She gave a clinic where I learned so much more than just golf.”
59 never gets old
This year marks the sixth edition of the event and the one moment that is always as good as the first time is the telling of the “59 story.” Each year, the question gets asked and players listen in awe as they hear the tale of the only golfer to shoot a 59 on the LPGA Tour, from Annika herself.
“It's an amazing story to get the background details, like she didn't have a good warm up that day. As a player you can relate. When you have a bad warm up you can go 'ok, Annika did this and shot 59.' It's awesome hearing that story." – Anna Newell
Working with a legend
Annika’s legacy extends beyond the field and is present among the AJGA staff, particularly ANNIKA Invitational Tournament Director Rachel Graves. A native of the United Kingdom and former junior and collegiate golfer, Graves looked up to Annika during her early golfing days.
“I grew up playing golf with my sister and we looked up to Annika and her sister Charlotta,” Graves said. “We wanted to be them. They were fiercely competitive yet never seemed like rivals.”
In her third year at the helm of the tournament, she now gets to stand by her idol as the pair work together to produce one of the top junior golf events in the world.
“Even now as I get to work with her, I continue to be inspired by what she gives back to junior golf. ”
Share how Annika inspires you by using the tournament hashtag #AJGAANNIKA