Published September/October 2011

My First Car: Annika Sörenstam

The top female golfer reminisces about her favorite vehicles

BYJim Prueter
The only female player to have shot a 59 in competition, Annika Sörenstam is considered the most dominant women’s golfer of all time. Born and raised in Stockholm, her first passion was not the honorable game of golf, but tennis. At age 10, her family moved to London and she slowly began to realize that her gift was, in fact, golf. While attending the University of Arizona in Tucson, she took college golf by storm and was recognized as an All-American.
 
Before stepping away from competitive golf at the age of 38, she had become the most successful female golfer of all time — winning 72 LPGA tournaments, 89 worldwide tournaments, 10 majors, and a record eight Player of the Year awards. She tops the LPGA’s career money list with earnings over $22 million.
 
We caught up with Annika at her home in Orlando, Fla., to talk about how cars have played an important role in her career.
 
Highroads: As a professional golfer, one of your sponsors always seemed to be an auto manufacturer.
Sörenstam: A lot of the car companies have been involved with golf for years. The Mercury brand was one of the first to get involved with women’s golf, as one of my sponsors. After that, Mercedes-Benz sponsored me, and now I’ve been affiliated with Lexus for the past several years. The Lexus brand seems to fit very well with the golf lifestyle, so it’s been a very good relationship.
 
Highroads: Have you ever won a car on a hole-in-one contest?
Sörenstam: Well, I haven’t had that many hole-in-ones, and haven’t been lucky enough to do it to win a car.
 
Highroads: When did you start driving and who taught you?
Sörenstam: I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden, and when I got old enough to start driving, it was my parents who spent the time teaching me how. I learned on a Hillman and it was a stick shift, which was required in Sweden. In Sweden the laws are very tough — they require you to go to a driving school and take a winter driving test to learn how to control your car sliding on the ice, for example. 
 
Highroads: When did you first realize you needed your own car?
Sörenstam: When I came here to attend the University of Arizona, I needed some kind of transportation because there wasn’t a train system and the bus system wasn’t as detailed as I needed. And, I couldn’t really get on a bike to travel to the different golf courses, or rely on my teammates for a ride because everyone’s practice schedules were so different.
 
Highroads: So you really needed your own car.
Sörenstam: I did, yes. I saved as much money as I could, worked extra and bought a used Ford Festiva for $3,000. It was black and I kept it for about two years. The car was very small and it was a good thing I didn’t have a tour bag because it wouldn’t have fit. But it was a good car. It took me to the places I needed to go and gave me the independence I needed for school and golf practice.
 
Highroads: When were you able to get your first new car?
Sörenstam: After I turned professional and got my first check, I bought a new Toyota Celica.  I didn’t know you were supposed to negotiate the price and I paid pretty much what was on the window sticker, so I’m sure they were very happy with me.
 
Highroads: Do you have a dream car or is there something you’ve always wanted to own and drive?
Sörenstam: As a professional golfer, I’ve been very lucky and have had the opportunity to get to try all kinds of cars with tournaments and various sponsors. As a kid you always dream about having a two-seat sports car, but now I’m in a different phase of my life and I drive a Lexus LX. It’s always filled with golf bags, baby strollers, packages, and groceries. It sits up high, so I’m able to see all the traffic and I feel very safe in it. Even if I weren’t with Lexus I would buy this car. I just love it.
 
Highroads: Other than the Lexus you currently drive, do you have any other cars in your garage?
Sörenstam: Oh yes, I still own my previous sponsors’ cars. I still own my Mercury, which I use for hauling the Christmas tree, errands to Home Depot, or if we have friends in town, so they don’t have to rent a car. I also have my Mercedes-Benz and another Lexus. 
 
JIM PRUETER, an automotive writer based in Phoenix, has provided reviews and advice about cars for more than 20 years.
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