Originally published at Fortune.com
By Daniel Roberts
Her days on the LPGA tour may be over, but the retired pro is building a winning business.
No matter how great the athlete may be on the court or on the field, success after sports is never guaranteed.
Annika Sorenstam, one of the most successful golfers alive, started to set herself up for her “second life” well before she left the pro circuit in 2008. While she brought in some $20 million in lifetime earnings during her 14 years on the LPGA Tour (and was the first woman to earn more than $2 million in a single season), Sorenstam says she always planned to keep her business going after her competitive career came to end. Now the Swedish athlete lives in Orlando and runs a golf academy, a course design firm, a clothing line with Cutter & Buck, a financial advisory group, and a charitable foundation. Oh, and she also still holds sponsorship deals with Lexus, Callaway, Rolex, Oakley and others.
Sorenstam spoke with Fortune about her business approach, the struggles of female athletes in retirement, and how she handles work-life balance. At a time when many athletes continue to go broke despite their massive salaries, Sorenstam is a rare example of how to do it right. (For more pro athletes who have succeeded in business, see our Pro-Files series with Sports Illustrated.)
What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Fortune: You left golf at the end of 2008. Did you have any plan in place for what to do next?
Annika Sorenstam: I made the decision in January 2008 to step away at the end of the year, so I had a year to prepare. It was a slow transition, but I wanted to be ready. My last tournament was in December 2008 in Dubai, and I got married in Jan 2009. My foundation was already set up in 2007, and Annika Academy was already set up, so after I got married, it was like, “What’s my business now? Oh, okay, the academy, design…” and things had just slowly fallen into place. I think I never really looked back at the decision to stop playing, or worried about missing it, I just was really focused on the Annika brand.
What is the Annika brand? What does it stand for?
I’m still so new in the business. I mean, give me another six years. But my professionalism is what comes to my mind. With anything I do, it’s my name and I’m behind it. When you come to the academy, it’s me. I work with the girls, I work with my designers on the clothing, I do the wine tastings myself, and if you play an Annika course, it’s my ideas that I have related to the designers and worked with them on.
Club 59 is my overall company, and that includes the academy we opened in 2008, a high-end golf school in Orlando. The name comes from my lowest round. [Note: Sorenstam remains the only female golfer to score a 59 in competition.] My goal with the academy is to offer an inspirational experience. It’s authentic. You play golf with me personally, or my personal coaches. Read more →