Annika Sorenstam, I want to party with you, Swedish cowgirl. Calloway golf hat, sunglasses, bright smile, 275 yards and change off the first tee -- striking.
And if you could just swing by Indianapolis on your way to my house in Des Moines, Iowa, and pick up Indy racer, Sarah "Can You Say Pole Position?" Fisher, that would be fabulous. It'll be great. We'll grill steaks on the deck. I'll graft my daughters to you. My oldest, Haley, can be the Annika clone (poised and athletic) and the youngest, Jena, can be Sarah Jr. (persistent and fearless).
On May 22 Annika became the first woman to play in a men's PGA golf event in 50-some years by teeing it up at the Colonial golf tournament. I got your ladies' tees right here, buddy! With roughly EVERYONE in the sports world watching -- half of them hoping she'd shank it and half anointing her as the Messiah of all womankind -- Annika turned in a great first round.
Pressure? You got no idea. Annika found herself in the teeth of a full-on media frenzy this week. I'd have been throwing up butterflies on the first tee and been bathed in my own urine by the 18th. Annika, on the other hand, was cool as a Swedish October and MASHED her opening drive straight down the middle. Let's play golf!
Meanwhile, my favorite race driver, Sarah Fisher, will be MASHING her little booty-covered foot to the floor in the Indy 500 Sunday, hoping to go 228 mph. Sorry, boys, you may think you're The Shit behind the wheel with your tweaked-out Chevy Tahoe with heated leather seats, but strap into an Indy car and you'd be DEAD inside five laps. This ain't running to the Quick Trip for a six pack. This is projectile driving. They'd have to hose me off the wall in turn two.
Sarah will start her fourth Indy 500 on Sunday. Rather than get all frothed up about her being the only woman in the 33-driver field (again), Sarah's focusing on getting her pig Chevrolet-powered car to come within even five miles per hour of the faster Hondas and Toyotas. And while Annika is in for one tournament, Sarah races against men for a living as part of the Indy Racing League, a group of racers who tour around to various racetracks during the spring and summer. For her, it's about winning, not about being a woman.
"It's all about winning championships, winning races," Fisher told rpm.espn.com. "You have to be competitive. If you're in there just because you're a girl and you can get in a race car and run circles, that's not cool."
Ditto for Annika: "I'm not here to prove anything to anybody. I'm just here to test myself." Striking a blow for womankind not withstanding, the most refreshing aspect of the Annika and Sarah and most other women who take on the boys is how brilliantly they respond to the bladder-draining pressure. Annika Sorenstam has been the portrait of cool. Gracious to a fault. Smiling and waving to fans. Stopping to make a child's day with an autograph. Sitting for endless, stupid-question-intensive interviews. Politely tolerating red necks and hangers on alike.
If I were Annika's husband, father, brother or uncle, I'd probably be more proud of how she's handled herself off the course than how she scored on it.
Consider the reaction of Sarah Fisher who, because Chevrolet has apparently lost the Indy car engine race to Honda and Toyota, is stuck with a hog of a car this weekend. For some reason, it would have been OK for a male driver to react to the underpowered wheels by launching into the kind of helmet-throwing, profanity-laced tirade made famous by Indy legend and notoriously short-fused AJ Foyt.
But Sarah? "(Flying into a rage) might have worked for (Foyt)," Fisher told Indystar.com, "but as a young lady, I can't throw computers. That's not ladylike; that wouldn't work. And besides, I'm not like that. My mom's a school teacher."
Well thank you very much, Reba Fisher (Sarah's mom) for teaching your kid to handle adversity. As someone who's sick of prima donna, self-absorbed sports stars who speak of themselves in the royal third person, I'm refreshed by Annika and Sarah's class and perspective. I'll be screaming my lungs out for them both on Sunday.
Even if my daughters can't grow up to play in the PGA or drive in the Indy 500, I'll be ecstatic if they learn to handle themselves with as much class an lack of excuses under pressure as Annika and Sarah.
© 2003 Bill Zahren