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Sorenstam Grateful for Crowd Support, Hopes to Advance at Colonial Tournament - 2003-05-23


The top woman golfer in the world, Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, did not crack under the pressure of being the first woman in 58 years to play in an official U.S. men's PGA (Professional Golfers Association) Tour event.

All 50,000 tickets were sold for Thursday's first round here, and the fans started gathering early for her tee-off at about 9:00 a.m. local time.

"From Stockholm, Sweden, please welcome Annika Sorenstam," said the announcer.

And there was more loud applause after Sorenstam drove the ball on her first hole. Large, vocal crowds followed Annika Sorenstam around the golf course all day under cloudy skies.

"It's been incredible. I mean it started the first day I came here with the crowd," she said. " I mean everybody's is either going [saying], 'Go girl,' or 'Go Annika. You can do it.' Everybody's so encouraging and so positive. And obviously, that gets me going as well."

Spectator Diane Butler from nearby Dallas told VOA Sports she came specifically to watch Annika Sorenstam play against the men. And she said she had on some special red Nike shoes.

"Annika wore these [same type of ] shoes when she won the Kraft Nabisco [tournament] which is the ladies' [LPGA tour's] major championship last year, so I wore these to give her some good luck, " explained Butler. " The Nike representative told me the day she [Sorenstam] wore these shoes that Nike got 10,000 calls for these shoes the next day."

Another golf fan, Dave Sougis is from here in Fort Worth, Texas, and he also said there was no way he was going to miss seeing Sorenstam play in a PGA tournament.

"Actually, I came out just for Annika. It's a time in history. It's exciting to watch," he said.

And Sougiss said he's glad to see his home town get so much publicity from this event, which has issued more than 600 media credentials for coverage.

"Fort Worth doesn't get the big recognition Dallas does, because Dallas is always on the map [in the news]. Fort Worth has always been the stepchild of the Dallas-Fort Worth area," he explained. " There are two different type people. You know, Dallas is the big city and Fort Worth is more country, and it's all about respect. And that's all Fort Worth ever asked for is getting a little more respect."

And there's no doubt that after her performance in the Colonial golf tournament's first round that Annika Sorestam is going to get more respect. She played better than most expected, including herself, with a one over par 71. Earlier in the week she had described this endeavor as her Mount Everest.

"I haven't reached the top, but I feel like I'm on my way," she said. "The way I played today confirmed it. This has been a wonderful week in so many ways and we'll see what the outcome will be. I know all the guys here, they're out here to compete and everything, and I'm here to test myself. And whether I play the weekend or not, if I play like I did today then I have tested myself in so many ways. And I've learned so much, and I'm thankful for that."

Of the 113 golfers who started Thursday, the top 70 or better - including ties - will make the halfway cut after Friday's second round. Annika Sorenstam tied for 73rd after the first round, seven shots behind leader Rory Sabatini of the United States, so she will need a good second round to be able to play Saturday and Sunday.