Annika Sorenstam said the invitation to join Augusta National was “one of the happiest days” of her golfing life. Golfweek’s Adam Schupak broke the news of her green jacket fitting one week ago. The 10-time major winner is the first LPGA pro to become a member of the prestigious club, which began inviting female members in 2012.
“I mean, what can I say? I’m extremely honored,” said Sorenstam. “It was a surprise, I must say that. I was so excited. … I am a total rookie, just learning the ropes. I’m not really sure where this will lead, but I’m thrilled and excited about the opportunity to not just play the course but to get to know the members.”
Sorenstam addressed the news on Wednesday while joining two other pioneers of sport – Billie Jean King and Lyn St. James – in a virtual roundtable to talk about Parity Week by Gainbridge.
Next week, Gainbridge will sponsor three flagship women’s events across three different sports, including The Annika driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge in Seville, Spain, and the Women in Motorsports North America “Women with Drive III – Driven by Mobil 1” summit.
Billie Jean King speaks onstage during the International Tennis Hall of Fame Legends Ball Honoring Billie Jean King at Cipriani 42nd Street on September 09, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for the International Tennis Hall of Fame)
King offered Sorenstam her congratulations as well as her big dream for golf.
“My prayer for Augusta is to have a women’s LPGA event,” King told Sorenstam and reporters on the call. “I know they have the amateur girls, but I want to see a pro tournament. So I hope that happens.
“I think you (Annika) will make a big difference. You stand for so much and people listen to you and appreciate you.”
The iconic King followed that up with “No pressure!” and everyone laughed.
The theme of the conversation was the shift that’s taking place in women’s sports, with King and others noting that progress has reached a tipping point.
The namesake for “Parity Week” is Gainbridge’s sister company, Parity, a brand sponsorship platform committed to closing the gender income and opportunity gap in professional sports.
Next week, 180 female athletes will compete for $12.85 million during Parity Week. Forty percent of Gainbridge’s sponsorship dollars support women’s sports. The national average is 9 percent, according to Parity CEO Leela Srinivasan.
King wants to see it at 50-50 across the board.
What does Sorenstam think of a Masters Tournament for women, a true sign of parity for the sport?
“Don’t put her on the hot spot yet,” said King. “We’ve got to give her a couple years, man. She’s got to get to know the members first. You’ve got to get to know how it works.
“It’s a lot of hard work. It’s fun, you keep learning.”