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Annika Sorenstam Becomes First Woman in 58 years to Play in US Men's Pro Golf Match - 2003-05-23

Star Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam has become the first woman in 58 years to play in an official U.S. men's PGA (Professional Golfers Association) Tour event. Sorenstam was pleased with her first round effort on Thursday.

She fired a one over par 71, hitting all but one fairway on her tee shots and missing only four greens in regulation. Her round included one birdie and two bogies, with the second bogie coming on her final hole to keep her from shooting even par.

The Swedish star knew it would not be easy to face all the media pressure and the huge crowds for her landmark appearance here, and she said her performance was better than she expected. Sorenstam said it was most nerve-wracking on her opening hole when she teed off.

"My heart was beating. I felt a little sick in my stomach and my hands were a little sweaty; I mean everything that you feel when you're under pressure and stress. You know, I've been nervous before, but this was a little more than usual," she said.

Sorenstam, 32, said she came here to test herself personally and not try to prove anything against the men. "I'm very proud the way I was focusing and proud of the decisions I made and that I stuck to them," she said. "And that's why I'm here. I want to see if I can do it and that's all that matters to me."

For her opening round Sorenstam was paired with American golfers Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber, who are both in their first seasons on the men's tour. Like Sorenstam, Wilson shot a 71 while Barber was two over par 72.

Sorenstam said they were very supportive of her and that helped, given all the attention she has drawn after deciding to play in a men's tournament.

"This has been an incredible week in so many ways," she said. "And you know I feel like this is almost more than I can handle. So therefore I'm just thrilled that I'm in. You know, on the first tee I kept telling myself, 'trust yourself, you can do it.' I had one thought and that was, 'just take it easy from the top (beginning)' and it worked all day. And I kept saying it to myself over and over again, and you know that's what I needed to distract myself."

Sorenstam said she hopes she can continue to play well enough Friday to make the halfway cut for the final two rounds here at the Colonial tournament.