Annika’s Advice to Take the Plunge Successfully and Start the Year off Right

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This week the LPGA travels to a familiar spot in the Coachella Valley for the season’s first Major Championship. The LPGA has called what many players still refer to as “the Dinah,” the first Major of the year since 1972. However, this year marks the first year for the tournament under the new title sponsor, All Nippon Airways (ANA). ANA is one of Japan’s largest airline companies and now becomes the Official Airline of the LPGA. The ANA Inspiration will still take place on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA.

This tournament will always bring back great memories for me as I played this prestigious event many times throughout my career on the LPGA. I was fortunate to win in 2001, 2002, and 2005 and enjoyed taking the celebratory victory plunge into Poppy’s Pond behind the 18th green. Even though I don’t compete anymore, I have had the pleasure of going back the past few years to work as a television analyst with the Golf Channel, which I look forward to doing again this year alongside Judy Rankin.

This will also be the first chance for the ladies to win points towards the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, which was established to recognize the player who, during a current LPGA Tour season, has the most outstanding Major Championship record (including a Major win). Michelle Wie won the inaugural award last season on the heels of her breakthrough victory at the US Women’s Open in Pinehurst. It was an exciting race that came down to the last Major of the year at the Evian Championship. Michelle also finished second behind Lexi Thompson last year here in the season’s first Major.

As with any big tournament, it is important to play your own game and manage yourself around the golf course. You must have discipline and stick to your gameplay for the entire 72-hole tournament. I find that the wedge game is particularly important on the Dinah Shore Course for several reasons. Holes like number nine and 18 are par fives that are often not reachable in two. Therefore you have to lay up to your favorite distance for the opportunity to get it close on your third shot. I always prefer to be around 80 yards from the hole. There are also times where you will miss a fairway and be in the lush rough, so you will need to hit it back into the fairway, to hopefully set up a manageable wedge shot into the green to try and save par.

Here Are Two Wedge Tips To Help Your Game

1. Make a Compact Swing and Always Accelerate

The closer you get to the green, the greater the urge to manipulate the shot. To resist that urge, make sure you accelerate through impact. Make your follow-through as long as your backswing. I see amateurs swing their wedges back like a driver, and then have to decelerate through impact to take power off the shot.

I carry four wedges, and I have three swing lengths for each – full, three-quarter and half. That gives me twelve wedge combinations. That might be unnecessary for you,
but at the very least, you should figure out how far you hit the wedges you carry with half and full swings. The point is, add a few stock shots so you feel comfortable from more distances.

2. Set Your Tempo

I seldom hit a shot very hard, and I seldom hit one very soft. This is particularly true with my wedges, mainly because I have shots to cover many distances. Never swing your wedges as hard as you can. When you press like that, you risk poor contact and wild shots. To set your tempo, try my 1-2-3 practice swing: Count 1-2-3 as you swing to the top, then 1-2-3 to the finish. It’ll keep your speed in check.

Good luck and be sure to tune into the action this week!

Annika is the greatest female golfer of our generation, and often regarded as the best of all-time. During her 15 year Hall of Fame career, she rewrote the LPGA and Ladies European Tour record books, won countless awards, and changed the way women’s golf was played, viewed, and covered. She amassed 89 worldwide victories, including 72 on the LPGA, ten of which are Major Championships. She has a record eight Rolex Player of the Year awards and holds the record for the lowest scoring average in a season (68.6969 in 2004). She has a record six Vare Trophies for the year’s lowest scoring average. She represented Europe in eight Solheim Cups. She is the only female to break 60 in an official event, which garnered her the nickname, “Ms. 59.” Annika was the first and only female to cross the $20 Million mark for LPGA career earnings and her total of over $22 million is nearly $5 Million more than the next closest competitor despite not competing since the 2008 season. Annika was the recipient of the Patty Berg award in 2003 for her contributions to women’s golf. She was the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year from 2003-2005, and the Golf Writers Association of America Female Athlete of the Year in 1995, 1997, and from 2000-2005.

Annika stepped away from professional golf after the 2008 season to focus on her family and the ANNIKA brand of businesses, including the ANNIKA Academy, ANNIKA Financial Group, ANNIKA Course Design, the ANNIKA Collection of apparel with Cutter & Buck, and signature high-end wines. In 2007, Annika created the ANNIKA Foundation as a way to teach children the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle through fitness and nutrition, and offer aspiring junior golfers opportunities to pursue their dreams. The Foundation has partnered with key organizations to promote healthy, active lifestyles for children, including SPARK, Florida Hospital for Children in support of its Healthy 100 Kids initiative and The First Tee in development of the Nine Healthy Habits curriculum for children. The Foundation annually conducts four major golf events for aspiring junior girls, including an award-winning AJGA tournament, ANNIKA Invitational at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla.; the ANNIKA Invitational at Mission Hills, the first all-girls junior tournament in China; the ANNIKA Invitational in Europe; and the ANNIKA Cup, a team event for the top juniors in Sweden. With the support of 3M, the Haskins Commission and Golfweek, the Foundation created the ANNIKA Award Presented By 3M, which is given annually to the best collegiate female golfer. In concert with the award, the Foundation launched the ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented By 3M, a college tournament featuring 12 of the top Division I schools, held annually on the Watson Course at Reunion Resort.

In 2008, Annika joined Arnold Palmer as only the second Ambassador of the United States Golf Association, and in 2009, along with Jack Nicklaus, she was named a Global Ambassador by the International Golf Federation and aided in the successful bid for golf in the 2016 Olympic Games. In 2011 Annika was named the winner of the USGA’s prestigious Bob Jones Award, given annually to someone with distinct character on and off the course. In 2013, she was named the First Lady of Golf by the PGA of America. Annika served as a vice-captain for the victorious 2011 and 2013 European Solheim Cup Teams in Ireland and the United States, and will serve in that same capacity in 2015 in Germany. Annika also appears regularly as a guest analyst on the Golf Channel’s popular Morning Drive show and as an Analyst for NBC Golf’s broadcast of LPGA Major Championships. Annika was recently named the top female athlete of all-time in her home country of Sweden.

In addition to expanding her brand and growing the game, Annika and her husband Mike McGee have two children, Ava (9/1/09) and Will (3/21/11). Annika represents world class companies that include 3M, ADP, AHEAD, Callaway, Cutter & Buck, Golfing World, Lexus, Oakley, Pacific Links International and Rolex. Annika’s Twitter handle is @Annika59 and more information can be found at http://theannikaacademy.com/.