Gifts of Good Cheer: Learning from the Pros

  • Shaun Tolson

“Everyone wants to know what it’s like to win a major tournament,” says Annika Sörenstam, who makes the answer no secret, especially to those who participate in the three-day “Soren-Slam” instructional seminar at the Annika Academy in Orlando, Fla. The three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion will gladly answer that question, as well as most others that come up; however, Sörenstam is intent to ask some questions of her own. After all, it’s her goal—and the goal of her academy’s staff—to improve the games of all the golfers who participate in the $9,245 seminar.

The three-day training camp is led by Henri Reis, Sörenstam’s personal swing coach, and covers all aspects of the game—from full-swing instruction to putting, chipping, and bunker play. Participants will see their swings dissected through video analysis and will be fitted for clubs through one of only 15 certified Callaway Performance Centers in the country. The package also includes fitness instruction with Kai Fusser, Sörenstam’s personal trainer, a course management seminar, a Sörenstam-led instructional clinic, and 36 holes of golf, nine of which are played with the 10-time major winner. For many participants, like Steve Birger, it was the nine-hole round with Sörenstam that sealed the deal. “Originally, my main goal was just to meet Annika and play nine holes with her,” he says. “But what I got out of it was much more than that.”

Birger has played the game for almost 30 years and regularly seeks professional instruction.  However, the 47-year-old from Atlanta says that the guidance that he received from Reis during a Soren-Slam seminar in April led to an immediate enhancement of his ability. “I’m hitting a lot straighter and I’m much more accurate,” he says. “I’ve hit some of the best wedge shots in my life now.”

Birger enjoyed success almost immediately during the seminar and proudly recalls a moment during his round with Sörenstam where, on a par-3, he hit his tee shot to within three feet, knocked in his putt for a birdie, and outscored the pro on the hole. Sörenstam, for her part, says that over the course of the 25 seminars that she’s hosted since the academy launched five years ago, there are always a handful of golfers who try to outplay her. “In the beginning, some of them try to outdrive me. Some succeed, and that’s a story they have for the rest of their lives,” she says. “Some people don’t outdrive me, but I always remind them that I do this for a living.”

Perhaps the biggest lesson that Birger learned during the seminar was how to deal with poor lies and low-percentage scenarios while out on the course, and he learned that lesson while watching Sörenstam lay up out of a fairway bunker. It was a reminder that even the best golfers must sometimes play conservatively. “You read it and you hear tips, but when you have someone of that stature do it [and you can watch], it’s more impactful,” he says. “It helps it sink in.”

The Annika Academy, 407.662.4653, www.theannikaacademy.com

From Around the Web...
After a week of driving four-wheeled wonders, our social-media director met his demise on two...
A rare Porsche, a new spot for spring training, fungus foraging, and more…
Loma De Vida, La Cantera Hill Country Resort, San Antonio, Texas
Blu Spas founders Cary Collier and Doug Chambers share the top wellness trends for men…
Show your special someone how much you care this Valentine's...
Photo by GePhoto
Are you a flashy flaunter or a stoic softy?
A 1,451 mph supersonic airliner is among the fast forms of transport that are in development…
Photo by Nigel Kinrade
The newly crowned seven-time Sprint Cup Series champion reflects on life in the fast lane…
From a souped-up Shelby to the Swiss slopes, we share our fast and furious flights of fancy…
With snow dumping on the West Coast, gather your gear and get out there…
The bespoke ski-boot maker’s new Contoura liners are like memory-foam mattresses for your feet…