Sorenstam Sets Up a Great '07 Open
With Annika Sorenstam's four-stroke win over Pat Hurst in Monday's 18-hole playoff at this year's Women's Open, held in Newport, R.I., the stage is set for an Open of epic proportions in 2007.
Sorenstam's last Open win came 10 years ago at Pine Needles, making her a back-to-back winner of the prestigious USGA national championship.
David Benne, director of operations for Pinehurst Championship Management, which will run the 2007 Open, knows that Sorenstam's win is a good thing.
"It is kind of neat that Sorenstam will be defending champion next year," Benne said. "Anyone that knows Peggy Kirk Bell knows the love that she has for Annika. That is one person you know is very happy to see Annika win this year's Open."
Bell, a charter member of the LPGA and the driving force behind bringing the Women's Open to Pine Needles, is the matriarch of the Bell family that owns Pine Needles and Mid Pines golf courses.
At Pine Needles, site of two previous Women's Opens (Karrie Webb won in 2001) the players will be greeted by a longer layout than in the previous years. Because of a recent restoration project under the watchful eye of Bell's son-in-law, Kelly Miller, the course will play about 6,800 yards, making it the longest course in Women's Open history.
Not only does the script for next year's Open include the return of Sorenstam as defending champion, but it could also include teenage sensation Michelle Wie. She earned an exemption into next year's Open by finishing tied for third at Newport, and the "young guns versus seasoned vets" theme that is building in women's golf circles makes the drama grow thicker.
Expect to see young players such as Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and the darling of the 2001 championship held at Pine Needles, Morgan Pressel, prowling the restored Donald Ross layout with hoped-for record crowds following their every move.
"Things are going great in preparation," Benne said. "Hopefully, we will have bigger crowds. In fact, we are planning on bigger crowds because of the boom in the interest in women's golf. With names like Sorenstam and Wie, if she chooses to play, there is no doubt that exposure for the event will be greater."
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