At Home with Annika Sorenstam

Annika Sorenstam may have retired from professional golf 15 years ago, but by staying active with her businesses, charities, and family it’s very evident that she’s still cooking

Earlier this year, Annika Sorenstam sat down with newly minted pro Rose Zhang, golf’s latest sensation and a player whose talent and drive remind her a bit of her own. Sorenstam’s advice to Zhang was simple: Make sure you stop and smell the roses.

Forget for a moment the irony of dispelling that advice to a prodigy named Rose. But that was the advice that Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, about 15 years her senior, dispensed to Sorenstam many years ago and it changed her life.

annika sorenstam
Photography by James Gilbert

“I was so focused. I didn’t reflect a lot,” Sorenstam says. “You get on this train of go-go-go and you win and you go on to the next event and you never really get to soak it all up and appreciate it. Amy told me that at a time that was really helpful. Suck on that caramel, if you know what I mean, don’t just swallow it.”

Fifteen years ago, Sorenstam stepped away from the professional game still at the height of her powers, a one-name superstar for a gender that has had precious few of them, a champion with a relentless work ethic and will to win. But while retirement has given her the luxury to stop and smell the roses, enjoying married life and raising two children—Ava, 14, and Will, 12—the 53-year-old hasn’t slowed down much.

Raised in a sporting family in the small town of Bro, outside Stockholm, Sweden, Annika skied and played volleyball, badminton, soccer, and tennis, her first love, with younger sister Charlotta—also later an LPGA Tour member—and parents Tom, an executive at IBM, and Gunilla, both avid golfers.

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Annika and husband Mike McGee (Photography by James Gilbert)

Explaining how her devotion to golf evolved, Annika retells the story of calling her father to pick her up from practice because it was raining. As they drove off, he pointed out that not everyone had called it quits and passed on advice that she lives by to this day: “There are no shortcuts to success.”

It was a gospel that would come to define her. Behind her trademark cool exterior was a singular focus and drive that renewed itself with each success. Her 72 victories rank third all-time in LPGA victories behind Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82). Annika finished No. 1 on the money list eight times starting in 1995, including five straight years from 2001 through 2005. As a player, she sought the unseekable, reached what had seemed unreachable, and then looked higher. That was her inspiration to compete in the 2003 Bank of America Colonial and become the first woman to play a PGA Tour event since 1945.

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Playing with the boys at the PGA Tour’s Colonial event in 2003 (Photography by Getty Images)

She stood above the LPGA Tour much as Tiger Woods dominated the men’s game. But in 2008, at age 37, she announced her retirement after 16 years as a pro. Describing how she no longer had the desire nor the hunger to rule the game, Sorenstam used the analogy of climbing Mount Everest.

“I got to the top, sat there for a while and it was nice, but all of a sudden you realize there are other mountains out there,” she says. “For me, I wanted to climb those and the only way to figure that out is to get down this one and start over.”

Her longtime caddie, Terry McNamara, understood her decision.

I always tell people she quit because of Mike,” McNamara says. “People say, ‘What do you mean?’ She found something she loves more than golf.”

“I WAS USED TO BEING THE BEST AND MY EXPECTATIONS IN BUSINESS WERE TO BE THE BEST…. BUT YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GO OUT THERE AS A ROOKIE AND SHOOT 59, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.”

In 2009, Annika married Mike McGee, the son of former PGA Tour pro Jerry McGee, and they started a family soon after. Sorenstam neither looks back with regret nor misses competing. She has found other pursuits to keep her moving, but not without a few bumps in the road. Sorenstam launched her first business interests during the height of the economic downturn. It was tougher than swinging into the wind. The learning curve was steep. She discovered she had to devote just as much time to her business pursuits as she had to perfecting her swing if she wanted to thrive. So, she formed an advisory board of mentors, including former LPGA commissioner Charlie Mechem, and hunkered down for the long haul.

“I was used to being the best and my expectations in business were to be the best. I don’t settle for second or for mediocre,” she says. “But you’re not going to go out there as a rookie and shoot 59, if you know what I mean.”

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Practicing at home at Lake Nona (Photography by James Gilbert)

Her father’s words came back to her: “There are no shortcuts to success.” Fifteen years later, Sorenstam is becoming the rare player—especially a female player—able to turn golf fame into a business empire. Mechem, for one, is impressed with Sorenstam’s longstanding relationships with several of her partners—including Callaway, Mastercard, and Rolex—most of which began during her playing days and continue to grow. She also serves as the President of the International Golf Federation, which oversees golf in the Olympics; is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame Committee; has dabbled in golf course design; and has an interest in Fizzy Beez, a carbonated cocktail made with honey.

It doesn’t leave much time for practice, yet Annika can still get around Augusta National, where she is a member, under par from the men’s tees. Her competitive juices are on display at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe and the PNC Championship (where she partners with son Will). She won the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which earned her a berth in the U.S. Women’s Open 13 years after she last competed in a major championship.

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Winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2021

Jack Nicklaus says Sorenstam didn’t show any rust on the tennis court, either, when she visited his house for a game.

“She hadn’t even touched a racquet in two years,” recalls Nicklaus, who has a backyard court. “We ended up in a tiebreaker. It was 6–5 and she was serving and she aced me like I wasn’t even there. She had that little giggle. Not competitive? She’s very competitive.”

Her famous drive is also evident in the kitchen, where she’s been known to cook up a mean Spaghetti Bolognese. That was the dish she served to Mike when he came over to watch the final round of the Masters for the first time and it has become an annual family tradition. Friends say she can’t go to a party without bringing something to cook.

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Photography by James Gilbert

“At the very least, I’ll put on an apron and say, ‘Put me to work.’ But usually, I will ask first what you’re making and try to complement it,” Sorenstam says. “To me, the kitchen is a gathering point. I like that part and I like to cook and eat good food.”

Her kitchen at home is her sanctuary. Sorenstam has lived at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, a community in southeast Orlando, since 2000. She bought the former home of swing instructor David Leadbetter, which included a red barn with a net and mirror where he gave lessons. Annika replaced it with a beach volleyball court, cleared out woods, and added a second island to the kitchen as well as a pantry to house an assortment of ingredients. A Swedish grocery store published a book of her recipes in 2009 titled Annika: Mat, Mitten, Golf, which translates to “food, memories, and golf.” The recipes evoke experiences from her travels and the people she loves: tacos from Mexico, sea bass from Japan, her sister’s birthday cake, her mom’s leek pie for brunch, the gorgonzola burger that Mike loves, and her go-to comfort food, grilled cheese with brie and raspberries.

Annika’s home gym reflects her continued devotion to fitness. She recently bought a Pilates resistance machine to improve her posture to go along with the Peloton bike, which she rides three times a week, that was a 50th-birthday present.

Annika Sorenstam
Photography by James Gilbert

Visible from the kitchen is a trophy case stuffed with daily reminders of her brilliance. Her office includes a treasure trove of memories, from a photo of Will being held by Arnold Palmer to a framed photo of Annika lining up a putt with partner Tiger Woods crouched behind her. (He signed it: “I told you it was outside the hole!”) There’s also a painting of her in the winner’s white bathrobe after claiming the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2002 wearing ruby-red slip-on shoes. (The kicks are there, too, under plexiglass.) Among the books on a shelf is a copy of Golf Annika’s Way in Korean, as well as Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, and by the looks of her upcoming schedule on the white board she needs to squeeze in some time to read it. When Rob Ohno, president and CEO of the Annika Foundation, asked for dates to schedule a fundraiser tournament for her foundation, she only had one available Monday in a three-month span.

“That’s how busy she is,” he says. “I don’t know how she does it.”

The short answer is purpose. She lives to share her knowledge and passion with the next generation, including some up-and-coming LPGA stars. She is rewarded by helping others, making a difference in their lives, inspiring kids to follow their dreams so they can attain them just like she did.

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Photography by James Gilbert

The Annika Foundation, which she started in 2007 near the end of her playing days, focuses on supporting girls’ and women’s golf globally. She oversees seven junior and intercollegiate tournaments on five continents that bear her name. At the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019, where she hit one of the ceremonial tee shots, 58 of the 72 in the field were alumni of Annika events. “They were like her girls,” McGee says.

“We’ve found our niche now and I’m as busy as ever,” Annika says. “I feel like I still get my golf fix.”

While still having time to smell the roses.

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