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 →
It’s hard to believe, but today is the 14th anniversary of the day I shot 59 at Moon Valley CC in Phoenix. That’s a long time ago, but the memories are still so clear it feels just like yesterday.
So how did that magical round happen? During my formative junior years on the Swedish National Team, we talked about the VISION 54 approach. It is based on the idea that if you play a course every day, you will eventually birdie every hole; therefore, why couldn’t you do it all in one day? I have always thought it is possible for someone to hit every fairway, every green and one-putt each hole. It was instilled in me from an early age to think positively and believe in your abilities.
This particular Friday started out as an ordinary day. I remember I was running a little behind and didn’t have a particularly good warm up before my round. I had an early tee time and started on the back nine. I got off to a good start, hitting the fairway, and the green and one putting for birdie. I followed up with another birdie and then one more.
After four birdies in a row, I asked my caddie, “How many birdies in a row have you seen?” He answered four. I knew I could do more as I had previously made six in a row during a British Open at Sunningdale Golf Club. I kept going and was thinking positively; after eight straight birdies I looked at my scorecard, saw all the circles and suddenly got very nervous. I thought, “I’m on my way to shooting 54!” Needing to steady myself, I turned to my caddie and told him I’m just looking to make par because I’m so nervous. I did, and made the turn at eight under. Read more →
Yesterday, we closed the book on our seventh-annual ANNIKA Invitational at Reunion Resort. We welcomed 72 players, including 19 from 14 different countries. What an amazing example of golf’s global reach!
I am very proud to have created the tournament with the ANNIKA Foundation and the AJGA. It is inspiring to see these young talents so early in their bright careers, and then follow their progress as they grow older. Our event’s mission is to be “More Than Golf,” and we accomplish this through a variety of activities. At the Callaway Golf Junior-Am, competitors get to interact and play with sponsors, just like they may in a future LPGA pro-am. My favorite is the ANNIKA Clinic Hosted by Rolex, where I share my experiences and some pointers to help fine tune the girls’ routines and preparation for tournaments. Finally, our “Winning Approach” evening was a great success and included my “Your 59” mental training session, tips to promote golf-specific fitness and a body-friendly swing by Charlotta, and media training by Stephen Reynolds of Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group. Since 2009, our tournament has received numerous accolades, including the “Social Media Award” just last year.
This year’s ANNIKA Invitational winner – Angel Yin form Arcadia, California – played flawless golf (going 36 holes with no bogies and making only one for the entire tournament). She set an event record with her 12-under-par performance, besting ANNIKA Academy Elite Athlete, Rachel Liu, by eight shots. Congratulations Angel!
In addition to receiving a beautiful trophy, Angel had the opportunity to appear on Golf Channel’s popular show, “Morning Drive,” earlier today. She was nervous, but Damon Hack made her feel at home. What a super experience for her, and her media training helped her handle it with grace and style! Angel left the studio with many new and fun memories from the week. It’s been a busy few days, and I am sure on the long flight back home she will relive the shots that led to her first AJGA win. I know I will remember the past few inspiring days with great fondness.
Thanks to my team; sponsors Rolex, 3M and Callaway; all our Junior-Am participants; volunteers and the AJGA for a fantastic week! Read more →
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club announces new honorary members
10 February 2015, St Andrews, Scotland: The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is delighted to announce that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Dame Laura Davies, Renée Powell, Belle Robertson MBE, Lally Segard, Annika Sorenstam and Louise Suggs have accepted invitations to become honorary members of the Club.
George Macgregor OBE, the Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, said, “It is an honour and a privilege for The Royal and Ancient Golf Club to welcome these remarkable women as honorary members. The Princess Royal enjoys a strong bond with Scotland and has shown great energy and commitment to developing sport through her work in the Olympic movement.
“This is an historic day for the Club and we could not be more proud also to welcome women who have distinguished themselves in golf over many years and have been great players and champions. They are extremely worthy additions to our roll of honorary members and will become ambassadors for the Club as they have been for the sport of golf throughout their careers.”
The Princess Royal follows Their Royal Highnesses The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of York and The Duke of Kent in becoming an honorary member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Having herself competed in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, The Princess Royal is a member of the International Olympic Committee and was a member of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games. The Princess Royal is a Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle in Scotland and has been Patron of the Scottish Rugby Union since 1986.
In September, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s members voted by an 85% majority to admit women as members for the first time in its 260-year history. Today’s announcement follows that historic ballot and, in addition to the honorary members, a number of women have been admitted as members of the Club with more set to follow in the coming months.
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