Sorenstam-pede Stops Webb
LITTLE SIS, BIG WIN
This is an article from the March 27, 2000 issue
The LPGA has been running a good-natured television promotion
showing its two leading stars, Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam,
one-upping each other. At the end, as they walk away, there is a
kick me sticker on Webb's back. Last week at the Standard
Register Ping in Phoenix, Webb, the distaff tour's Tiger, was
indeed kicked, and by a Sorenstam; but it was Charlotta, not
Annika, who delivered the size 9, medium. Emerging from a
five-year career in the agate type and from her older sister's
shadow, she beat the LPGA's top-ranked player by two strokes.
At the start of the final round the three women were tied for the
lead, and each had her own personal goal. Webb was trying for her
fourth straight tour victory, which would put her one shy of
Nancy Lopez's 22-year LPGA record. Annika, who had qualified for
the Hall of Fame by winning the week before--Webb didn't
play--hoped to make it two straight, this time with Webb in her
wake. Charlotta? At 26 she was looking for win number 1. "I want
to beat everyone," she said. Then she added, "And that includes
Annika," a statement that reminded many of how tempestuous the
sisters' relationship had been.
On Sunday, Charlotta was paired with Webb while Annika was in the
twosome just ahead. By the time both groups had made the turn,
Annika had fallen back with a flurry of bogeys, and she spent the
rest of the afternoon looking over her shoulder to see how her
little sister was doing. The answer: Just fine. Charlotta went
two ahead early and was still one up when she and Webb reached
the 15th, a par-3.
There, Webb knocked one stiff, and the two were tied. Everyone
knew it was midnight and Charlotta's carriage was about to turn
into a pumpkin. But at the next hole Webb hit a shot that would
make even a high-handicapper shudder, one that, as it turned out,
handed the tournament to the younger Sorenstam. Bunkered after
her approach to the par-4, she opened the blade of her wedge and
produced a world-class shank, the ball skidding across the green
to the right. When it took her two to get down from there and
Charlotta holed an eight-footer for par, Charlotta was back in
the lead for good. She added a birdie on the 18th to cement the
The scene that followed could win an Oscar for greenside emotion.
When Annika removed her sunglasses, a tear was visible. She could
barely reply to a reporter's question. As her sister's final putt
dropped, she jumped a foot off the ground and applauded. When the
sisters embraced and held on and on, it was clear their former
uneasy relationship was history.
When they were girls, the sisters' scuffles were as commonplace
as their golf matches. Although she was younger, Lotta, as the
family calls her, was taller and stronger, which presented Annika
with a problem when fists started flying. "We would fight all the
time," Charlotta says, "but I knew I could take her, so she would
cheat. She got her friend Maria Berkilskold to sit on me, and
then Annika would tickle me, which was worse than getting hit."
As the girls grew older, their innocent scuffles turned into
bitter disagreements. The icy relationship continued after both
Sorenstams got on tour. Even getting them to pose together for a
photograph required high-level negotiations. Early on Annika had
disapproved of Classon, the basis for more intrafamily hostility.
But when Charlotta married Robert Classon, a Web site designer,
15 months ago, the ice melted.
"When Annika realized that I loved Robert very much, things got
much better," Charlotta says. Annika attended the wedding in
Stockholm, a major step toward healing. The sisters are at peace.
On tour they often dine and play practice rounds together, as
they did two days before the Ping.
Now everyone is happy, except Webb. One Sorenstam was enough to
deal with, much less two. --Walter Bingham
ACE OF CYBERSPACE
MS hasn't stopped Paul Willey from becoming the Tiger Woods of
Paul Willey averages 282 yards a drive and puts his ball in the
fairway 85% of the time. Willey also hits the green with 89% of
his approach shots, needs only 23 putts a round, has a scoring
average of 58.56, and he does it all from his home in Palmyra,
Maine. The 37-year-old Willey is the world's best cyber golfer.
Last year, playing against 800 elite competitors using the
computer program Links LS, Willey won 47 of the 71 tournaments he
entered, including the Grand Slam. He has won 16 of 19 events
this year, coming from six shots back during the final round to
win the cyber version of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the same
day that Tiger Woods made his late charge at Pebble. "Paul's
skill is so legendary that he beats other players before he ever
hits a shot," says Mike Schuetze of Washington, D.C., another top
Willey is one of 32,000 cyber golfers who play in tournaments
using Links LS, which debuted in 1996 and features 40 courses,
most of them Tour venues. Willey has been ranked No. 1 since he
started playing cyber golf, in 1996, a year after retiring from
the Army because of multiple sclerosis. Although Willey has only
about 60% use of his arms and hands, he has an amazing ability to
produce the snap--the perfectly timed release of the mouse clicker
that is the key to good cyber shots. Willey's low round is a
21-under 52 at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.
According to Schuetze, Willey also has uncanny course-management
skills. "[He has] an intuitive feel for getting the ball around
without getting into trouble," Schuetze says. "That's where he
rises above everyone else."
As a boy, Willey caddied for his father. But even though the rest
of his family played--his sister, Thea Davis, is a teaching
pro--Willey never took up the game. After becoming an avid cyber
golfer, Willey finally tried what Links players call IRL (in real
life) golf in 1997. Today he carries a 20 handicap; plays with
his wife, Lori-Ann, and their children, Joshua, 7, and Alanda,
14; and hits 200-yard drives, although the act of swinging often
causes him to cry out in pain. "It's worth it," he says.
Willey gets just as much satisfaction out of a half-hour round of
cyber golf, which he often plays in his lucky bathrobe. The best
prize he has won is an autographed Arnold Palmer putter, for his
victory in the '99 Masters. "It's my proudest possession," says
That may change. Beginning with last week's cyber Bay Hill
Invitational, Microsoft, the producer of Links, kicked off a
seven-tournament, 1,700-player tour. The top 64 finishers will
qualify for a single-elimination match-play event, with the
winner earning $100,000. Willey, who came in first last week, is
definitely the favorite. The finals will be held in November in
Hawaii, and although traveling is hard on Willey, he dearly wants
to go, if for no other reason than to meet and play against
Sergio Garcia, an inveterate cyber golfer who plans to attend.
Wonder how Garcia will react when Willey throws a 58 at him?
The winning streaks may be over, but history will still be made
this season. In the last 40 years only two professional golfers,
Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, have won 10 or more official
tournaments in a single season. By the end of the year two more
W's who get W's--Karrie Webb and Tiger Woods--will join them.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only golfers to win the Players Championship more
than once. Couples won in 1984 and '96, Elkington in '91 and
'97, and Nicklaus in '74, '76 and '78.
Do you agree with a U.S. Court of Appeals' allowing Casey Martin
to continue riding a cart on Tour?
--Based on 1,464 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Should the Players Championship be upgraded to a
major championship? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for the RANGE
BP, divot-watching detail, Maniac Hill, blister box, boneyard,
library, rock pile, salt mines, Vijay's Place.
It has been almost a year--and 20 starts--since David Duval,
defending champ at the Players Championship, last won on Tour.
His drought, though, isn't the longest among players now ranked
25th or higher.
Rank Last Win Starts
Justin Leonard 17 '98 Players 52
Davis Love III 4 '98 MCI 41
Chris Perry 25 '98 B.C. Open 41
John Huston 21 '98 Disney 34
Vijay Singh 6 '99 Honda 28
James Stanofski, Pinebluff, N.C.
James, 18, was named player of the year in the Nike
Winternational Junior Series for the fourth straight year. James
won four of eight events--including the season-ender at Pinehurst
(N.C.) No. 4 on March 12--and never finished out of the top four.
A senior at Pinecrest High, James will attend UNC Greensboro on a
Emily Gilley, Flossmoor, Ill.
Gilley, a sophomore at Northwestern, won for the first time as a
collegian at the GTE Mo Morial in Houston. All-Big Ten last
season, Gilley finished three shots ahead of runner-up Kristen
MacLaren of Texas-El Paso. Gilley's victory was the first by a
Northwestern woman since 1997, when her older sister, Elizabeth,
won the Wildcat Invitational.
Bill Van Orman, Carmel, N.Y.
Van Orman, 36, won a PGA Tournament Series event by seven shots
at St. James Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., his second
victory of the season. A teaching pro at Sleepy Hollow Country
Club in Scarborough, N.Y., Van Orman finished second on the money
list with $9,999, behind Mike San Filippo's $11,124.
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