Local golfer headed to U.S. Women's Open

Swedish-born golfer Sofie Andersson says she gets asked all the time if she knows fellow-countrywoman and golf legend Annika Sorenstam.

Although the two have met, Andersson doesn’t necessarily want to follow in the footsteps of Sorenstam.

“I could create my own,” Andersson said.

The Avila Beach resident will get her chance to make her own mark on the sport beginning Thursday when she competes in the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, a tournament that Sorenstam won three times in her illustrious career.

Andersson initially came to America to play college golf because her options were limited in Sweden.

“In high school, we don’t have athletics, and we don’t have athletics in college,” Andersson said. “I attended a Swedish Federation golf high school, which was sort of an academy, and once I graduated from there, it was pretty much to turn pro or quit golf and study back home.”

Initially recruited by Mississippi State, Andersson transferred to Cal after her freshman season, going on to become one of the top golfers in school history.

She became the first golfer in Cal’s history to earn All-America honors three times, finishing with the best scoring average in school history and leading the team to three straight top-five finishes at the NCAA Championships.

“I had a great experience with the coaches and the team,” Andersson said. “And just being in the environment of academics and athletics at Cal was sure pressure, but you were always pushing forward.”

After finishing a degree in political economies of industrial societies, Andersson embarked on the beginning of her professional career.

She currently plays on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, which is one step below the LPGA Tour.

Andersson admitted that it is sometimes a struggle to make a living as a women’s golfer not always playing at the sport’s highest level.

Much of her tour winnings go directly into travel expenses and coaching, but Andersson said she has fully devoted herself to the sport.

“It is a struggle to make it work at the level I’m playing because it’s so expensive to play competitively,” Andersson said. “If you have a good week, yes, you’re going to make some money but it’s not going to make a big difference for you for the year.”

A good week at Oakmont could mean financial security for the next several years. Last year’s winner pocketed $585,000 of a $3.5 million purse.

“I don’t think much would change,” Andersson said. “Sure, my bank account would look much better. But there would for sure not be any lifestyle change. I love this area. and I will stay here and do what I do.”

A win or top finish wouldn’t secure any kind of LPGA Tour card or exemptions in the future, Andersson said. So for now, regardless of what happens this week, she will have to go through the LPGA qualifying school to get a chance to play permanently at golf’s highest level.

Andersson went through a regional qualifying tournament in Salinas just to be invited to this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. After finishing 36 holes in a day, Andersson had to wait out the rest of the 80-woman field before finding out she’d qualified in a tie for third. She was one of only four golfers to advance to the Open.

Regardless of any financial compensation, Andersson, who has never played at Oakmont, has other goals for the week ahead.

“I want to come out of the week knowing that I have gained experience and learned something,” she said. “If I do that, then I am grateful, and if a good score comes with that, then great.”