Annika Sorenstam says female tour stars “deserve high-end quality golf courses with world-class facilities” after she was announced as the host for the La Reserva Sotogrande Invitational in Spain later this month.

This will be the first time the LET has played in Europe this season and the addition of the 10-time major champion is sure to guarantee a stellar field and event – indeed, the likes of Carly Booth, Catriona Matthew, Naomi Jimenez and Meghan MacLaren all confirmed.

“The discussions first started about a year ago when I was in Spain for one of the tournaments,” Sorenstam told LG.

“I met with them and discussed more of an ambassadorial role, running a clinic and playing in the pro-am.

“It’s great to promote it as a place to play in Europe for women. The more opportunities we create for women in these tournaments the better.”

The Swedish legend had little doubt that La Reserva was the right place to do it.

“The area has a special place in my heart,” she added. “Growing up in Sweden we had to find other places to practise and Spain was one of them. It was very easy to head down there to some of the great courses on the coast and Sotogrande is one of the world-renowned places.

“At that time, La Reserva Club was not built yet, as it opened in 2003, and I’m a little old. But having courses like Real Club de Sotogrande and Valderrama was a great opportunity, so I have a lot of fond memories of going there and playing in pristine conditions and playing world-class golf tournaments.

“All the best in the world would be there practising in the beautiful weather.

“One of the things that the top women golfers really deserve is places that are high-end quality golf courses with world-class facilities and that’s what these guys will get.

“Sotogrande and La Reserva Club encompass that completely. It’s a beautiful setting, close to the Mediterranean Sea, and it inspires pleasure. You want to have places that have great places to practise and inspire you to go out and shoot lower scores. So, this is one of the critical aspects.”

Sorenstam, who won 93 titles as a professional, retired in 2008 and since then has continued to work with the sport through her Annika Foundation, which is working to increase golfing opportunities for females.

“The foundation has everything from six-year-olds to 22-year-olds, but not necessarily together in one event.

“We have what we call a ‘Share My Passion Day’, which is a three-hour day where we introduce the game to younger girls between six and 10. Also they’d get the chance to see some of the LPGA players so hopefully that will inspire them.”

It’s not only the beginners that the foundation is focused on. Sorenstam explained that as the players involved with the foundation grow, they continue to contribute to their development but in slightly different ways.

“The invitationals for ages 13 to 18 are a lot more advanced and take the game more seriously. The ones that are a little bit older are already looking into college experiences which is a big deal.

“We actually have between 20 and 60 coaches that attend our tournaments to recruit, because these girls get to showcase their skills in front of the best coaches in the world.

“That’s what we are, we’re about providing opportunities.”

The foundation has helped more than 40 golfers on their way to becoming a professional, with Alison Lee being one of the highlights of the programme’s success.

Sorenstam is hoping that her affiliation with the LET event will help the foundation to offer yet another opportunity for a young golfer.

“It’s great to be able to open up the opportunity for some invitees from the foundation to play in the event, which will be amazing.

“It’s definitely something to work towards to promote junior golf and inspire the next generation.”

The La Reserva Sotogrande Invitational will take place from May 16-19 and beforehand Sorenstam will conduct a junior golf clinic as well as tee it up in the mixed-gender pro-am.

Having been around the game for a number of years, she is well aware of the struggle that is facing the LET in the present day, but does feel optimistic about its future.

We have heard from more than one female star that combining the men’s and women’s games can be hugely successful and we did see evidence of this at the Jordan Mixed Open earlier this year.

“There are only nine LET events scheduled in continental Europe this year. So, we’ve got to find ways to get the sponsorship. I’m a big believer that playing with the men is a good thing for the game.”

Joe Hughes

Tour editor covering men's golf, women's golf and anything else that involves the word golf, really. The talk is far better than the game, but the work has begun to change that.

Handicap: 20

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