Annika Invitational returns to WGV this weekend

Jacksonville resident Kaitlyn Schroeder prepares to hit a shot during the Annika Invitational Junior Am on Friday at Slammer & Squire. The 54-hole tournament begins Saturday. (News4Jax)

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Annika Sorenstam has been retired from golf since 2008, but she’s never been too far from the game.

Quite the opposite.

Twelve years ago, Sorenstam’s foundation started the Annika Invitational and that event returns to the First Coast this weekend at the Slammer & Squire.

It is one of six girls-only invitationals on five continents.

The event for girls between 12 and 19 years old is a big one for junior golfers. At stake in the 54-hole tournament are points for the Rolex AJGA Rankings and the World Amateur Golf Rankings. The winner also receives an exemption to the Symetra Tour’s Florida’s Natural Charity Classic on March.

Bigger than the points, Sorenstam said, is seeing some of the same faces in the area time and again and knowing that the experiences of the event are helping younger women. The camaraderie and stories are something that she always enjoys hearing about and witnessing.

One golfer, Sorenstam said, is playing in the tournament for the seventh time. There are golfers from 18 different countries in the field, and a strong AJGA contingent. Four of the AJGA’s top 10 golfers are in the field, including No. 1 Rose Zhang (Stanford commit) and No. 2 Alexa Pano.

Three former Annika Invitational winners are also in the field, Lily May Humphreys (2019 Annika Europe), Agustina Zeballos (2019 Annika Latin America) and Ho Yu An (2016 Annika Mission Hills)

“They get a chance to play against the very best of players of all age groups and they get a chance to see them. But also, we’re going have lot of college coaches here, so this is a great platform for them to showcase their skills and hopefully walk away with some connections and maybe even a scholarship down the road,” Sorenstam said.

“It’s exciting to be here. I love watching these girls. Many of them I’ve seen for a few years now. It’s nice to see them grow up. And continue to inspire them and motivate them to do what they want to do down the road.”

Sorenstam, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003, will also conduct clinics on Saturday and Sunday for golfers.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.