Date: December 10, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Piper, Aussies pumped for Annika

There’s a new tournament in our region this week, but it’s being hosted by anything but a new name.

The inaugural Annika Invitational Australasia will be held at the Royal Wellington Golf Club in New Zealand, giving 14 young Aussie women a chance to rub shoulders with a genuine legend.

Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam, whose first professional win came at the 1994 Women’s Australian Open, went on to win 10 major championships as part of 93 worldwide wins that made her one of golf’s all-time greats.

Throughout and since her remarkable career, Sorenstam pitched a “more than golf” platform to help young girls become great golfers, but even better women in society.

The New Zealand event makes a fifth continent for the Annika’s events in North America, South America, Asia and Europe that culminate in the Annika Invitational USA in Florida in January.

Young golfers, aged from 12-18, from across the region will compete on the same course that hosted the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship over 54 holes with the top three to advance to the American tournament.

Among those representing Australia is Piper Stubbs, who’ll join compatriots Doey Choi, Ashleigh Hall, Alizza Hetherington, Charley Jacobs, Grace Kim, Steph Kyriacou, Hallie Meaburn, Hannah Park, Issy Taylor, Sarah Wilson, Mackenzie Wilson, Sophie Yip and Jinyoung Yun in Wellington.

Stubbs, 15, played for Victoria in Noumea at the South Pacific Junior Open this year, but will represent Australia internationally for the first time this week – and she could barely be more excited.

“Getting to meet Annika will be awesome and so educating,” said Stubbs, who’s a member at Huntingdale and coached by Tim Wendel.

“There’s such a lot to be gained in experience from this sort of trip and while we’re all out there to win, really it’s about the experience for me this time. There’s the international travel, travelling with a team and just getting to meet Annika … it’s going to be a great week.”

“I’m going to do my best, and there’ll be girls out there probably thinking of winning, but I think for me it’s more about learning and making that a possibility next year or the year after.”

Among those who’ll have higher aspirations are Choi and Kim, the New South Wales teammates who’ve both come off stellar 2018 campaigns.

But for all their success, they’ll likely be blown away when Sorenstam, who has travelled about 100,000km this year to support her foundation’s tournaments, turns up in Wellington.

“I can’t think of a better place to close out our 2018 season than New Zealand,” said Sorenstam, who will headline a gala dinner for competitors, as well as lead a skills clinic focusing on both on-course and off-course tips for success.

Remarkably, there have now been 32 participants in Annika events since their inception in 2009 who have gone on to earn LPGA Tour cards.

Stubbs is too young to recall Sorenstam’s on-course glory days, but she knows full well of her impact.

“I know she’s only woman to have shot 59 in a tournament and that she achieved a lot really young before giving up golf up to start a family and then focus on achieving other things,” Stubbs said of the legendary Swede.

“She seems to have a really balanced life and that’s why I look up to her so much.”