Questions for ... Annika Sorenstam

Questions for … Annika Sorenstam

"He knows a lot about sports and he's talking a lot about sports," Couples said. "His role is, we all respect him."
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Since her retirement from professional golf after the 2008 season, Annika Sorenstam has become a mother and an entrepreneur with a course-design business, a golf academy, a clothing line, a fragrance and a winery. She’s busier now than she was as a globe-trotting pro who racked up 89 worldwide wins, including 10 majors.

You and your husband, Mike McGee, have a 6-month-old little girl named Ava. How is motherhood?

It’s a wonderful thing and 24/7. It’s just Mike and I. We have our parents around the corner but we try to do the work ourselves. We take shifts aT night and also in the day with baby duty.

No nanny?

We decided that we wanted to figure out things ourselves. It’s something that we’re obviously going to look into. But we really want to raise Ava ourselves.

Is Ava sleeping all night yet?

She’s pretty close. She sleeps from like 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. We’re pretty happy with that.

What’s a normal day for you with all your family and business responsibilities?

We get up around 6 a.m. with Ava. Mike and I alternate: one of us goes to the gym while the other feeds the baby. I start checking e-mails around 7 and then have some breakfast. After Mike goes to the office, I try to get some e-mails and phone calls in between Ava’s feeding and sleeping schedule. In the afternoons I try to go to the academy [Annika Academy in Orlando] or to a photo shoot, and Mike comes home to watch the baby. We crash around 8:30.

A course-design business is like a rite of passage for a player of your caliber. Tell me about it.

We just started a project in Turkey. I’m heading over soon to begin working on that golf course. I have four ongoing projects in Asia: China, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

What is your design philosophy?

My No. 1 goal is to create an inspirational experience. What that means is to create a golf course that any golfer of any skill level can play and enjoy. I grew up playing in what we call open golf, where it wasn’t just men playing with men, women playing with women. Everybody played together. So my courses will have as many tees as possible so that everybody can enjoy the same golf course.

You could probably play most courses from the tips.

People always say, “Why don’t you take a look at the back tees?” But I always say, “Why do you focus so much on the back tees, where only 2 percent of the people can play?” My goal is to create a golf course that has variety and that the majority of people can play.

How did you get into the wine business?

In all the years of travel around the world I have enjoyed the lifestyle of great restaurants and fine wines. In May of last year I released my first wine through the Wente Vineyards. We created a syrah which is a full-bodied wine that is not as thick and heavy as cabernet. It has a little oak, a little strawberry. It’s very flavorful. For the launch of the wine at the Wente Vineyards in the Livermore Valley [Calif.], we played the Greg Norman golf course on the property and had a nice dinner. We called it Wine, Nine and Dine. This spring we will release our first chardonnay.

Do you miss anything about being the best women’s golfer in the world?

I’ve taken my competitive drive into the business world. I can’t think of a tougher time to do this than now. I can try to have the best wines, the best golf academy and so on. But coming down the stretch where you have to hit this particular 7-iron or a 20-foot putt to win is something that I do miss. But it’s more than that to get there. It’s all the grinding and practicing and travel that I don’t miss. I’ve done that and I’m fulfilled and I’m enjoying this new chapter in my life.

Is there a 59 in your game? How much do you play?

I haven’t kept score in about 14 months. I really don’t play. I do clinics and play nine holes with guests at my academy at the Reunion Resort in Orlando. I play more social golf than anything. If I can’t play my best, then I’m not even going to try.

Do you keep up with the golf tours?

We watched the Honda Classic this past weekend. I saw a little bit of the women in Singapore. It’s a little bit of here and there. Still I probably watch as much as I did when I was playing, when I was often too busy with other things. But I certainly keep in touch with players and I watch scores on the Internet.

Is there any chance of you playing competitive golf again?

No. Not this year. I didn’t close the door because you never know if I get the desire or the motivation to do it. But I have no plans and it really hasn’t crossed my mind.

Who excites you right now on the LPGA Tour?

Overall, I think the Tour is in a good state. It’s fun to see some of the new players come up. Lorena Ochoa has had a lot of changes in her life with getting married. But she still has a lot of game. It’s fun to see Ai Miyazato step up to the plate. I think it’s going to be a really exciting year for people to watch.

Who are your role models in the business world?

I just look at golfers. Greg Norman is somebody that I admire for what he has done off the golf course. Obviously, Arnold Palmer.

Where are the women?

You look through all the sports and there are really no women who have tried to take it to another level, if you think about. They’ve all been very successful in their sport, but they have not broadened outside of that. My question was, why haven’t we done that and what can I do? My goal is to build so much more than what I’ve done on the golf course.

Have you sought out women business leaders?

I have been to a few different meetings of women CEOs, which gave me a chance to network. I have a chance to participate on corporate boards. So I’m looking forward to that.

What are you reading?

I’m reading the Millennium trilogy by the late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson. All of my friends in the States were talking about him so I’m reading them now in Swedish. I just started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Where do you want to be in 10 years, when Ava is 10 years old?

I want to continue to build the Annika brand of businesses. I want to be a really good mom to Ava. I want her to be able to enjoy life and explore different things and explore her interests. I also want to be a good wife to my husband.

Do you plan on more children?

We have a handful now, but I wouldn’t mind that.

Has Ava started golf?

She has a putter. But right now it goes in her mouth more than anything.