It was all going so smoothly, almost as if it were programmed.
Here was Annika Sorenstam, already a two-time winner in three
starts this year, cruising through the final round at the
Welch's/Circle K Championship in Tucson, two strokes ahead, all
systems go when--splash! That was the sound of Sorenstam's
approach to the 9th green plunking into the drink, and after a
drop, a panicky pitch and three putts, the best player on the
LPGA tour had made a triple bogey, surrendered the lead and, as
it turned out, lost the tournament. The winner for the fifth
time in her career was Donna Andrews. Say thank you, Donna.
Sorenstam and her caddie, Colin Campbell, had disagreed on what
club she should use off the tee on the 329-yard, par-4 9th at
Randolph North Golf Course. She wanted to lay up with a
five-wood, which would have left her a wedge shot over the creek
fronting the green. He suggested a seven-wood. She went with him
but pushed her drive into the rough, 137 yards from a hole cut
dangerously close to the water. Moments later, her eight-iron
approach splashed sickeningly into the hazard. On the 10th
fairway Sorenstam, who finished tied for third, could be heard
saying "stupid, stupid, stupid," and after the round she was
still seething. "To have a two-shot lead and play like a coward,
there's no excuse," she said. While Sorenstam is no newcomer to
headlines--she has, after all, won the last two U.S. Women's
Opens--it takes a student of the small type to know that this
year there's a second Sorenstam on the LPGA tour. This Sorenstam
has twice finished 11th and last week in Tucson came in 13th,
impressive statistics for a rookie. Her first name is Charlotta.
Yes, they are sisters.
Annika is 26, Charlotta 23. Both have blonde hair and blue eyes.
At 5'7", Charlotta is an inch taller than her sister. They grew
up in Stockholm but attended college in the U.S.--Annika at the
University of Arizona, Charlotta at the University of Texas.
Both were NCAA champions, Annika in 1991, her sister two years
later. One more thing: The two of them rarely speak to each other.
Just why is difficult to understand. Annika will talk about her
relationship with Charlotta, and Charlotta will talk about her
relationship with Annika, but get them together--lots of luck
trying--and neither will say a word. Photographer Keiichi Sato
spent the better part of a day at last week's Welch's/Circle K
pro-am chasing them down and persuading them to pose for the
portrait that accompanies this story.
At first it didn't seem as if getting the sisters together would
be that difficult, since they would be finishing their rounds
about 10 minutes apart. When Charlotta was done, Sato asked her
if she would wait a few minutes, but when he explained why,
Charlotta said she was hungry and left. Sato hung in and finally
got them together on the practice putting green. During the five
minutes or so that Sato shot them in several poses, Annika and
Charlotta never said a word to each other. Sato was changing
film in one of his cameras when he looked up and saw that
Charlotta had simply walked away.
As children the sisters were "the best of friends. We were like
this," says Annika, holding her thumb close to her index finger.
"We remained close until about 1988, when I started to play
golf. Golf is such a competitive sport, and I'm sure that has
something to do with it."
Charlotta also has pleasant childhood memories of her sister.
"We played a lot of golf and tennis when we were kids," she
says. "Sometimes I would beat her in golf but never in tennis.
But we've only played golf maybe three times together in the
last four years. We just don't see each other that much."
They did see each other at Annika's wedding to Callaway salesman
David Esch on Jan. 4 in Lake Tahoe, Nev. Asked if she was a
member of the wedding party, Charlotta says, "I don't know what
I was. I held the flowers." When it's pointed out that she was a
bridesmaid, she says, "That's what I was then." Asked to spell
her brother-in-law's last name, she says, "E.... I'm really not
So how did the relationship between the two sisters sour?
Charlotta blames golf. "It's this profession we have," she says.
"It doesn't really allow for closeness. Annika puts a lot of
work in her game, and she's worth all of her wins. I'm here not
because I'm Annika's sister but because I went to Q school and
qualified. I try to focus on my own game and not think about her
success. My goals this year are to be among the top 30 on the
money list and win the rookie of the year award." After Tucson,
Charlotta is on track to accomplish both. She's 27th in earnings
and is first in the LPGA's rookie ranking. But Annika points out
that when Charlotta shot 66 to take a share of the first-round
lead at the recent Australian Women's Masters, she was quoted as
saying, "If Annika can do it, I can do it."
"That's not something that would be on my mind," says Annika,
"but it seems important to her, to be as good or better than me.
I guess that's hard, being my little sister. At the same time, I
always root for her. I want her to do well. She has a powerful
swing. I think if her short game comes around, she'll be fine."
Standing unhappily on the sidelines is Tom Sorenstam, the
sisters' father. "They are both such nice girls," he says. "I
really hope we don't have to talk about the strain their
relationship is under at the moment. I'm not sure why this is
so, but maybe it's because Charlotta is feeling pressure for all
the attention Annika has gotten. They haven't been good friends
Something Annika says indicates that there may be hope for the
relationship. "If you ask me, it's Charlotta's problem," she
says. "She's unreasonable to deal with. But if you ask her,
she'll probably say it's my problem. I have sympathy for her.
She means a lot to me. I love her dearly."
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY KEIICHI SATO Charlotta (left) and Annika agreed to pose together, but neither said a word. [Charlotta Sorenstam and Annika Sorenstam]
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY KEIICHI SATO Annika has won twice in '97 but botched number 3 in Tucson. [Annika Sorenstam swinging club]