It was just 10 years ago that Annika Sorenstam became the story of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. And I was lucky enough to be one of those that drew the assignment at the Dallas Morning News to go cover history as Sorenstam teed up it with the boys in Fort Worth.
Part of my duties included talking to various folks -- the head golf professional at Colonial Country Club and a group of PGA Tour golfers -- about how they felt having Sorenstam take one of the spots in the invitational. One of the interviews that sticks with me was talking to Greg Norman, who was playing in the HP Byron Nelson Championship right before the Colonial. Vijay Singh had been the most outspoken player against Sorenstam playing and I asked Norman how he felt about it. Here was his answer, which appeared on dallasnews.com at the time:
It depends on how you look at it. It's a very sensitive subject to many and I can understand the pros and cons. Promotion is good promotion as long as there's something afterward.
I'd hate to see this turn out to be not a win-win situation.Golf is a great game. It's played by (people from) all walks of life, different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
At the same time, I kind of endorse what Vijay Singh has said. This is the men's tour. The big difference is the fact that it's 1,000 yards difference in length. I know Annika's been out there working hard on trying to get length to her game, but it's not just length that comes with it. It's spinning the ball.
Colonial is a tough little course. It's not overly long, but it's going to be 800 yards longer than what she's used to.
If the course gets fairly hard, she's got to be able to spin it. The women don't spin the ball as much as the men. They just don't create the power in their swing to do that.
I just don't want to see her hurt herself or hurt the game. She's been a great player and will continue to be.
You've got to be careful this doesn't create a follow-on effect down the line. More invitations ... then the guys might want to play against the gals or something like that, and then it gets a little bit sloppy. I go back to the beginning. Promotion is good promotion if there's an end result. I'd hate to see this turning out to be a bit more than that.
For some people, they felt it was Colonial's way of simply making the tournament matter more in 2003. But this wasn't just some publicity stunt. Sorenstam was serious and I thought it was great for Fort Worth and golf that she gave it a try.
I arrived very early on Thursday morning of the tournament and found a father and his daughter waiting by the No. 10 tee, where Sorenstam was going to tee off to start her tournament. I can't remember his name, but he wanted his daughter, a golfer around 10 years old, to see history. Sorenstam took out a 4-wood and hit her tee shot down the middle of the fairway. She shot 71 that first day and had everyone excited as she hovered around the cut line, but a second-round 74 ended her chances. She wasn't around for the weekend, but remained the talk of the event. I talked to a bunch of fans and had trouble finding a few that weren't glad she played. It seemed like the Fort Worth community got behind her and was really hoping she'd make a little history.
I was struck, too, by Sorenstam's motives. She wasn't looking for publicity. She just wanted to see if she could tee it up on the PGA Tour and play well enough to make the cut. She tried it at a course that wouldn't put her at a big disadvantage on length and her playing partners were supportive. She wasn't able to play the weekend and never tried again on the PGA Tour. I give her credit for that and I think it proves she just wanted to give it one shot and was willing to live with the results.
It was good for the game of golf that she tried, if you ask me. And it was good for Colonial.