Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Neumann's Win Adds Savor to Swede Smell of Success

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Neumann's Win Adds Savor to Swede Smell of Success

Article excerpt

Sweden is known for its bitterly cold winters, fair-haired humanity, adventurous Vikings, sumptuous meatballs and often-stoic athletes. (See Borg, Bjorn.)

But golf? In a country where the courses are sometimes unplayable for months at a time because of snow?

"I think people associate us with skiing," said Annika Sorenstam, the Rookie of the Year on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.

"When I was at home, I put my golf clubs in the closet for five months," said Sorenstam, who was born in Stockholm but lives now in Phoenix, Ariz. "The weather's like Minnesota. Our season's about seven months."

Yet, between winters there, golf grows in Sweden. And on Sunday, one Swedish export grew richer. Liselotte Neumann, who joined the LPGA tour in 1987, conquered the $500,000 GHP Heartland Classic at Forest Hills Country Club.

By the way, what's the Swedish word for golf?

"It's golf," a smiling Neumann said after winning her third tournament of the season. She lives in the southern part of Sweden, where the winters are milder.

"We have about 370 golf courses and there's about 350,000 golfers," Sorenstam said. "Each club has about a thousand members. Not that many clubs have 36 holes. But we have a lot."

A lot of success.

With her win, Neumann upped her earnings this year to more than $483,000. Sorenstam is the third Swede to earn Rookie of the Year honors: Neumann won it in 1988 and Helen Alfredsson in 1992.

On the men's pro tour, Swedes Anders Forsbrand and Jesper Parnevik are emerging as world-class players. They are the beneficiaries of a government program started in the '80s.

"A lot of the Swedish players are coming up through that," Neumann said.

Sorenstam got a $5,189 Heartland paycheck for her 2-over 290. She hopes the Swedish golfers' success spawns a host of other players, as Borg's tennis boom in the '70s did in the '80s with the likes of Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg. …

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