The circus is over. The media has packed up its bags and moved on to another story, and the players are going to their next tournament. History has been made, and now it's time to find another place to set up camp. And we're left to ponder what Annika Sorenstam's play at the Bank of America Colonial has accomplished.
I think she's accomplished two things by playing.
One, she's made it easier for women everywhere to step onto a more level athletic playing field without having to hear as many snickers and derisive comments. Though she didn't make the cut, her play showed that she can compete with men on the PGA Tour. That was her only goal. She merely wanted to see how she stacked up against the best players in the world. She learned that she can compete, and we've witnessed that fact.
|Annika Sorenstam deserves a standing ovation.|
Sorenstam competed in the most pressure-packed golfing situation of her life. She should be applauded for being able to play as well as she did Thursday and Friday. The atmosphere around the Colonial for those two days was unlike that of any tournament short of a major. If she could have played without the extra distractions caused by her appearance, I believe she would have made the cut.
After her first round, I talked to her on the radio show and she admitted she was nervous throughout the round. How could she not be! Entering the event, I don't think she realized how big this would become. More than 600 media credentials were issued and thousands more fans attended than at any other tournament she'd ever played. It would be impossible not to be at least a little overwhelmed by the situation. Yet she still showed up and proved she could compete.
|Michelle Wie may one day follow in Sorenstam's footsteps.|
I think her playing -- and playing well, under the circumstances -- will allow more women the opportunity to take risks like this without being mocked for trying.
Second, she's made it easier for the next woman to play in a PGA Tour event. There's now a template for what to expect. There's no way it can get any bigger than it was at the Colonial. When Suzy Whaley plays the Greater Hartford Open, she'll know what to expect in terms of pressure. She'll know that she'll be asked every question she can imagine and some that haven't crossed her mind. She'll know that she and her playing partners will be the focus of every sports show in the country. She knows she'll have the biggest gallery of her life. Thanks to Sorenstam, she'll be ready.
One day down the road another female golfer will give a go at playing on the PGA Tour. It could be 13-year-old sensation Michelle Wie, who has stated that she wants to play PGA events. Because of Sorenstam, Wie and others will know how to handle the pressure that will face them.
Whether she likes it or not, Annika Sorenstam became a pioneer at the Colonial. She took on an extremely difficult burden and handled it with her usual aplomb. And Whaley and future female athletes should thank her for it.