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Billie Jean: Sorenstam Enters Unknown Territory
Fri May 16, 2003 09:39 AM ET
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LONDON (Reuters) - Annika Sorenstam's biggest problem at next week's Colonial golf tournament will be entering unknown territory, says Billie Jean King, who was involved in sport's most famous "battle of the sexes" 30 years ago.

Sweden's Sorenstam, the world's leading female golfer, will become the first woman to challenge the men on the PGA Tour in 58 years when she tees off at the par-70 Colonial Country Club on Thursday.

"No matter how much she practices, you can't rehearse for that kind of occasion," said 59-year-old King, who racked up 20 Wimbledon tennis titles and beat Bobby Riggs, Wimbledon men's champion in 1939, in an exhibition match in 1973.

"It's very, very difficult. But I think if she makes the cut, that would be just a tremendous thing."

Sorenstam, who won 13 tournaments worldwide last year, will become the first woman to compete in a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias took part in the 1945 Los Angeles Open.

But until the Swede tees off, she will have no real idea of the pressures she will have to handle, says King, who knows a thing or two about battles between the sexes in sport.

"Annika is going to be under tremendous pressure," she said. "Just like when I played Bobby Riggs or when Martina Navratilova played Jimmy Connors or when Babe Didrickson (Zaharias) played in 1945."

Sorenstam has repeatedly said she does not want to become involved in a 'battle of the sexes' during next week's tournament in Texas.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE

"I'm not here to prove anything," she said before winning the Nichirei Cup World Ladies' tournament by nine shots in Tokyo at the weekend. "I'm here to test myself and face a new challenge. I just look at it as the biggest challenge I've ever had in my career."

Although King believes Sorenstam's presence at the Colonial will provide a welcome boost for the LPGA Tour, no matter how the Swede fares against the men, there is a negative factor.

"I think more people know her name now than they ever have and I think it's sad that you have to go and play a men's tournament to get your name known and to have that recognition of her accomplishments," King said. "That's what gets me upset.

"We only get 8.7 percent of the sports page, women's sports. Forget women's tennis, women's sports.

"That's why it's very hard for women's sports to be known and be household names very often, like the men. It's sad.

"But I do think it (Sorenstam playing at the Colonial) brings a lot of attention to the game of golf. I think it elevates the LPGA."

When Sorenstam launches her first round on Thursday, former tennis world number one King will probably cast her own mind back to September 20 1973.

On that day, King beat Riggs in an exhibition match at the Houston Astrodome in front of an estimated television audience of 90 million.

MEMORABLE BLOW

King won 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, striking a memorable blow for women after Australia's Margaret Court had lost to Riggs 6-2, 6-1 earlier that year in the first Battle of the Sexes.

"I knew it was historical," she recalled of her triumph over Riggs. "I knew it was very important, even though, you just say 'it's a little tennis match'.

"Not that I wasn't scared to death but I just knew what I had to do to do the best I could. I think knowing history helped.

"I also knew the significance from a social point of view. I knew it was about social change. I was very clear that it was touching people's hearts and minds.

"They had feelings. Everybody had a feeling about that match if you asked them.

"It really questioned how they felt about themselves, it questioned how they felt about the opposite gender. It triggered so much stuff in people, it was incredible.

"So it's very important to have a sense of history, because it really does help you play better, I think. I was ready."

The golfing world will find out at Colonial next week if Sorenstam is also ready.
 

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i wish her well. i wonder if Tiger eventually made those supportive noises bec he isn't playing. or did Nike make him do it when deep inside he feels the same way Vijay does.
 

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I think Annika has a chance....
Golf is different than tennis....
In tennis... you have an opponent! While in golf.. it is against a course (and nature) :)
Just can't believed some of things said by some male ("overpaid-aging") golfers... :) :)
 

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I wish her well too ;)
is she gonna be allowed to wear the short skirts ?? ;) :drool: (might be of some help)

Yes Golf is different, but the Fat Men hit longer.
 

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yes men still have an advantage here IMO. so she should use any advantage she has...:devil:
 

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With the exception of Tennis, Hockey, Rugby, American Football, Boxing, Wrestling (Sumo :eek: ). I think Women can easily compete with men in everything else. I'm sure however 9 out of 10 top players would still be male though, in most sports.
 

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women cricketers could never play effectively against men. i think men would have the advantage in ALL sports bec of the physical disaprity.
 

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This is such total bull shit. The PGA does not have a gender rule. You do not have to have a penis to play on the tour. IF the that tournament wants to give her a wildcard or whatever they call it thats their business not annikas. I hope she plays and kicks much bootay.


Golf is so freaking boring.
 

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Why doesn't she support her own tour?I'v never understood the desire of some women athletes and alot of the male dominated sports media to constantly wonder how a top female athlete,and I use that term loosely when referring to a golfer :rolleyes: ,would fair against her male conterparts.WHO CARES!!I don't give two hoots that any of the WTA top 10,wouldn't have snowball in hell chance of beating even a ATP top 200 player.To me success for women in sport is measured by their ability to have their OWN tours,leagues,teams.etc..I hope she doesn't embarass herself.
 

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I think playing an exhibition and playing a tournament are two different things. Now that she got into the tourney is not wrong for let's say , Tiger Woods to ask for a wildcard into the women's tourney anytime he wants...If he was smart, he should request the entries into the majors and become the only player to win all on both tours.

I think her entry open pandora box and will set off a domino effect that won't be rectified so easily. What will the reasoning be for not allowing Tiger to play a LPGA tourney?

How do the points and rankings work out? How are they gonna give her points and her ranking and will it be the same as the lpga?

I don't think she thought this through fully and ration the consequences. Lets see how the great ANIKA!! gets out of this one.............I wish her luck.
 

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Good luck to her. I hope she does well. I think theres no reason why she cant do well, golf is mainly about strategy and women have just as much of that as men. Physical strength wouldnt come into it as they are playing against the course and not each other.
 

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I fully support Annika and know she will do fairly well. She's a great person and she doesn't deserve all the negative sh*t being said about her by the men on the PGA. I met her and watched her at last year's US Open and I was just amazed at how easily and how far she could hit that damn ball. She'll make the cut (at least).
 
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