Annika Sorenstam swings through Tahoe City | SierraSun.com

Annika Sorenstam swings through Tahoe City

A young girl on the first tee box at Tahoe City Golf Course starts her downswing, eyes intent on hammering a drive, her grip tightens in anticipation of the contact.

As she swings through, however, the ball is left sitting safely perched atop its tee, prompting the approach of one of the game's legendary figures.

The girls' stance is adjusted, she's given a few words of encouragement, and directed to try again. This time club and ball connect and the crowd behind the two erupts in applause.

The scene repeated itself over and over last Saturday in Tahoe City as one of the sport's greats, Annika Sorenstam, hosted a free golf clinic for the area's young players.

"It's about having fun. I want them to associate golf with fun," said Sorenstam. "It's a sport that you can play all your life. People don't really talk about the health benefits."

The clinic was part of Tahoe City Golf Course's season-long centennial celebration, bringing one of the most iconic figures from the modern golf era to a place designed 100 years ago by one of the game's most important women, Isabella May "Queenie" Dunn-Webb.

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Saturday's clinic also coincided with the 10-year celebration of Sorenstam's own organization, the ANNIKA Foundation, which helps develop women's golf around the world and encourages children to lead healthy, active lifestyles.

"The goal for me is to share the passion and the knowledge that I have to these young girls," said Sorenstam. "And inspire them to pick up the game or just help them to build confidence and focus and get comfortable with sports.

"It's all about providing opportunities for the next generation so they can fulfill their dreams."

At last Saturday's clinic, Sorenstam addressed dozens of junior players and adults at a crowded tee box on the first hole, spending more than an hour giving tips, lessons and sharing stories from her career. Some of the things she talked to young players about were nutrition, importance of playing multiple sports, nerves, approach and technique. She then had several youngsters come up to take some swings from the tee box.

Sorenstam also wowed the crowd in the morning, having her husband move to different distances on the first fairway with a baseball glove, and then hitting balls for him to catch.

The clinic closed with a meet and greet, along with Sorenstam signing special "59" golf balls for the crowd, commemorating her record-low score of 59 at an LPGA event in 2001.

Tahoe City Golf Course will continue its 100-year celebration with lady's rounds every Tuesday for $19.18, along with rounds of $19.18 for any player on Thursdays.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.