Just six months after turning professional at the beginning of the 2009 season, Henderson Rookie Anna Nordqvist recorded her first win at the LPGA Championship in mid June.
At only 22 years old and with a Major Championship already on her resume, considered the pinnacle achievement of many a golfer’s career, Anna went on to represent Europe at The 2009 Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois in August and scored two points on debut for her continent.
She is now well on her way to securing the Ladies European Tour’s Ryder Cup Wales Rookie of the Year Award, given to the leading first year player.
With meteoric success and comparisons made to former world number one Annika Sorenstam, we take a brief glimpse inside Anna’s world.
Achievements so far…
• 1987: 10th June, born in Eskilstuna, Sweden.
• 2006: Departs for Arizona State University in August
• 2008: Earns a limited exemption on the LPGA Tour
• 2009: Turns professional on 1st January. Wins Ladies European Tour qualifying school at Club La Manga, defeating Frances Bondad by three strokes
• Wins LPGA Championship in June
• In August, makes debut representing Europe at The Solheim Cup
• In October, shoots career low round of 63 (-10) on day three at the Madrid Ladies Masters, getting into a playoff with Azahara Munoz
• Finishes second after being beaten with an eagle at the first hole
• October 7th – leads Ryder Cup Wales Rookie of the Year Race with earnings of 80,791.74 Euros from five tournaments. Closest competitor is Florentyna Parker with 56,415.56 Euros.
• Looks forward to playing the LET’s season ending tournament at the Dubai Ladies Masters, taking place at Emirates Golf Club, from December 9-12.
You have achieved a lot in a short space of time, but only a year ago you were still an amateur. How long ago does that feel now and what are your thoughts on the last year?
Thinking about it, it’s almost exactly a year since I decided to quit school and told my coach. Looking back, it feels like it was a long time ago but it was just a year and you realise how much has happened during that year. I feel I learned a lot. I’ve had so many amazing experiences. Going to school and playing college golf seems like so long ago now.
What are the main things that you have learned?
How it works on tour, how to travel and how to plan everything. There’s a lot more to think about now than before. You were fortunate as an amateur because either your coach took care of you or the Swedish national team. Now you’re kind of on your own. That’s a big experience. I have a good team around me and they’ve been very supportive. I’ve had a lot of sponsors that have believed in me from the beginning and that’s been important to get off to a good start. Especially in the beginning, when everything is so uncertain, it means a lot.
What will you treasure the most from your fantastic 2009 season?
The Solheim Cup is going to be the highlight and what I remember the most: the atmosphere and everything. Then just all the people I met; the places I’ve visited. The people around me that support me and I work with: it’s been a great journey.
What was your favourite memory from The Solheim Cup?
Coming down the stretch playing with Suzann Pettersen in the four-ball because she is such a good player and someone that I’ve always looked up to as she’s dedicated. Playing with her, pulling it off and winning on the last hole was a great experience.
Of all the congratulatory messages that you have received, which ones have touched you the most?
There have been a lot and I appreciate all of them, knowing that my friends and family are following me. The more important ones are from friends back home that don’t watch golf. They told me they followed me back home and were watching and things like that so that shows that they care.
Who would you like to see captain the team in Ireland in 2011?
I haven’t thought about it! Laura (Davies) is not going to do it. We’ll see. I think there are a lot of potential captains and we’ll see. Alison Nicholas did such a good job and she should be proud of what she’s done. Watching her during the week, you couldn’t be more proud of her.
Did you ever feel like an underdog playing for Europe?
Obviously that was how they put it for Europe; I don’t think we really cared. We were going to go out there and everyone believed that we could have won. Obviously America did a little bit of a better job and holed a few more putts but I still think Europe should be very happy with their achievement even though we couldn’t go all the way this time.
You have won a major and played Solheim Cup. What is next?
Looking ahead, now I’m going to have more experience. I’ve visited a lot more places so every week is not going to be a new place and a new course. Having to set a schedule at the beginning of the year, you have a schedule and time to make your plans. I’ll keep working hard with my coaches. I’m very happy playing a lot in the States because it’s very competitive and makes you want to improve. You can’t control winning; it would be great to win again but I’m just going to keep working hard to improve parts of my game.
How will you raise your game to the next level?
I started working with Henri Reis this year and I’m very happy with how that’s coming along. Last year I didn’t really have an off season with going to both the LET and LPGA Q School. It’s nice to have time to work on your technique: work on your short game, work on your physique and everything.
Have you changed anything in your technique?
I have. I’ve been trying to make it simpler. I don’t have a lot of swing thoughts when I’m playing. I try to keep it simple and I think Henri has helped me a lot with that.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I’m very friendly; very ambitious. I really care about my friends and my family and I put them as a priority and want them to have the best.
How do you find pleasure in your time out from golf?
Golf takes up a huge part of my life but I like to go to the movies, hang out with my friends and spend time with my family.
How did you become involved in golf?
I grew up with two brothers. One is three years older and one is three years younger so we did a lot of different sports growing up. Matthias is 29 and Mikael is 25. My dad and older brother started playing golf so me and my younger brother were going to try it. I think I was 10 but I tried it, played for two or three months but then I quite because I wasn’t enjoying it and there weren’t any other girls in the club. I didn’t really have any friends so I kept doing other sports like swimming and tennis and soccer. My mum decided she was going to start playing when I was 13 and I figured I didn’t want to be the worst golfer in the family. I picked it up and ever since I have been focusing on golf so it was a good decision.
Tell me about your home town in Sweden.
In Eskilstuna we get cold weather from October to April/May which is similar to every part of Sweden. When I’m back there I play with the guys from the club during the winter. It’s not very good conditions and I practise a lot indoors. It’s been a little easier to practise since I moved to the States.
Did you enjoy school?
I did. I’ve always been very hard working and school kept me motivated, I had good grades. Once I moved to the States I felt like I was there for the golf and after a couple of years in college I felt that the studying part took too much time.
What is interdisciplinary studies?
It’s when you combine two minors so it’s a little bit freer. I combined sociology and communications. You could choose a little bit more.
What do you think you would have liked to do as a career if you couldn’t play golf any longer?
I think I would like to be a graphic designer. I always liked design and, not really drawing, but with text and things like that. I enjoy Photoshop. I would definitely do something like that.
Why do you play golf?
I like competing and I like challenges: the feeling of putting in a lot of hard work and getting paid off for it.
What is your advice to a young person wanting to become a professional golfer?
Give yourself time: there is no hurry. Everyone is in a rush. Well, you did this or you did that and now what are you going to do? Just give yourself time. I’m only 22 and hopefully I’m going to have a long career ahead of me. Just take your time!
What do you think about the future of European golf? Are there any talented players coming through that we should look out for next year?
Absolutely. I think the European Tour is growing better and better. It’s getting tougher and tougher. You’re really going to have to play well to be successful. More players are improving and everyone is getting better. Everyone is pushing each other to get better and there are a lot of young players coming up from amateur golf. Azahara has turned pro. There are a lot. Time will tell. I think we don’t have to worry about the future because there are going to be good players coming along.
What do you think about golf being in the Olympic Games?
That would be awesome. I think it would be a huge step for golf, if golf was introduced to the Olympics. I don’t think there’s anything that could beat playing in the Olympics, representing your country. That would be a dream come true.