Swede Anna Nordqvist is one of the LPGA’s mainstay stars. She rose to fame by winning her fifth LPGA start, the 2009 LPGA Championship, which was also her first and solo major win to date. Since then, Nordqvist has missed just 10 cuts in her LPGA career, has competed on four Solheim Cup teams representing Europe (8-7-1) and has recorded three top-10s so far in 2016, including successfully defending her ShopRite LPGA Classic title.
You’ll be representing Sweden in Rio this summer. What are you most looking forward to?
I’m certainly looking forward to golf being back in the Olympics. I grew up watching a lot of sports and the Olympics has always been close to my heart. Getting the honor and opportunity to represent Sweden in an Olympic Games…it will be amazing. I mean, I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
What will the Olympics do for golf, in your opinion?
I think the Olympics will really help put golf on the map in the rest of the sporting world. I’ve noticed quite a bit of extra media attention, from Swedish media, and just the way people at home look at golf now. You get opportunities to see other athletes too and draw different experiences from them.
But also, I think it’s going to showcase how hard we really work as golfers, how many hours we put in. It might take a couple of years before we know what it’s going to be like in the Olympics, but getting an opportunity to play the first one, I mean, what a cool experience.
You’ve won a major and a Solheim Cup, so is the goal this year an Olympic gold medal?
I think it would be pretty cool to win an Olympic gold medal. It’s a unique opportunity to try for one this year, and maybe I’ll still be playing in 2020. Winning a gold medal would rank up there, but winning a major is my goal.
You had a good season last year.
Yeah, 2015 was a very consistent and great year for me. I won in Atlantic City in June [ShopRite] and 10 top-10s. I finished pretty good in the majors, which had been one of my focuses. I was happy. Solheim Cup was a great highlight, playing back in Europe — I felt it was a huge success in terms of the fans.
I strained my oblique at the end of the season, so that was a little unfortunate. I was really tired, it was a long year. In a way, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. So 2015, I’m looking back at it with a smile on my face.
What, if anything, are you doing differently with your season this year?
I set a pretty good schedule this year. I took some tournaments off in the beginning of the year just to try and pace myself a little bit. I’m fresh — I had a lot of time off last winter, and I just want to have a good time. I play golf because I love it, so I’m just going to keep playing with my heart.
I’ve also been hitting it pretty hard in the gym. My trainer, Marcus Park, and I put in a lot of hours. It was a lot of grinding this winter [laughs]. I was coming off that injury so I had to let it take some time to heal, but it also made me realize that I needed to strengthen my core even more. I feel like my cardio is a little bit better so I can last a little bit longer this year with all the travel.
I still have the same swing coach, we’ve been working the last two years to get to this point. It’s a lot of maintenance work, really, to handle the tendencies that creep in during the course of a season. I just try and stay positive and go out there every week with a smile on my face cause it’s such a great opportunity to be able to do this for a living.
How do you take that positivity and turn it into growing your tour and the game of women’s golf?
I think the LPGA is getting a lot more exposure. I think all the players have a different story to tell. I’m from Sweden, I have a different story than Lexi [Thompson] has or that Lydia [Ko] has coming from New Zealand. It seems like there’s more interest in learning more about us, having the Olympics is going to help with exposure…there’s a lot of fans out there. I think we’ll never be able to compete with the PGA Tour, but we can offer something that the guys can’t.
I hear a lot of times in the pro-am, the guys enjoy playing with us a little bit more because we give a little bit more, there’s a little bit more interaction and they can get closer to us.
I’m also big into social media. I do it all by myself because I want to portray who I am, with my personality. I’ve seemed to grow quite a big following. With my second-place finish at the beginning of the season, there was a ton of people back home and here writing really nice comments and just following along.
Any tips on social media for golfers?
You just need to be yourself and tell your story your way. I’m trying to show who I am and the hard work that goes behind the scenes. I’m really excited that the LPGA, there’s quite the life there, and I think a lot of people are opening their eyes about it. But like I said, I don’t think we’re ever going to compete with the guys, but I don’t necessarily think we have to.
What about trying to get the LPGA major tournaments on par with the PGA Tour events?
I think the LPGA has done a good job with the five majors we have. The ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship are two championships that come back to the same courses every year. With the British Open, I think we have some great opportunities to play some great courses there over the years and we have some great ones lined up. At the U.S. Open, you want to play and challenge yourself on different courses. I feel like the traditions with ANA are the closest compared to the Masters, and I feel like it’s really important for us to keep that event with such a unique history. If that’s the one tournament the LPGA is going to have forever, I think we’d all be very happy.
What’s one thing you’d take away with you from your time on the LPGA so far?
If I could take away one thing from the LPGA, it would be all the friendships that I’ve made. The opportunities golf has given me are pretty special. I came to the U.S. 10 years ago with two suitcases and a golf bag and I’m pretty proud of myself for the way I worked myself up, but I’ve met so many incredible people.
Not just my golfing friends out on tour, but all the staff, and players in the pro-ams. I’ve stayed in housing where I’ve become a part of their family. I really don’t have any family in the U.S., but it still feels like I do have a lot because of all the special people [I’ve met].