Rolex’s relationship with golf began in 1967, when Arnold Palmer, the charismatic champion golfer became the brand’s first testimonee. Since then the roster of illustrious golfers who have graced the brand has grown and includes some of the greatest names ever to walk the greens: Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and more.
In 1994, Rolex brought on board its first lady golfer testimonee: the legendary Annika Sörenstam. It was a match made in heaven. Sörenstam was an embodiment of everything that Rolex stood for and placed it at the very apex of horological achievement. Perfection, precision and dependability combined with grace, elegance and an inimitable flair for the limelight.
This is evidenced in the manner in which she scaled the very pinnacle of her sport, virtually unrivalled. Over the course of a 15-year career, Sörenstam chalked up an incredible 10 Major wins, in addition to her 72 LGPA Tour victories up until 2008. She also amassed six Vare Trophies for the player on tour with the lowest average score each year, on top of a record eight ‘Player of the Year’ awards. Indeed, she is the only female player to have shot a score of 59 – an astonishing 13 shots below the par of the course, and, at the time, was only the sixth player ever, male or female, to have shot below 60. In 2003, she became the first woman since 1945 to compete in a field of male players at the Bank of America Colonial Tournament, part of the PGA TOUR, a truly historic moment for women’s golf.
It’s been ten years now since Sörenstam took a voluntary sabbatical from the game, stepping away from playing and entering the arena of golf course design. Her firm, ANNIKA Course Design has completed nine courses globally in countries including China, South Africa and Estonia, epitomizing her global vision of golf – courses that “golfers of any age, gender or skill level can enjoy equally” , while yet “preserving the environment, spirit and traditions of the game”.
In 2008 Sörenstam was named a United States Golf Association Ambassador and a year later, the International Golf Federation also named her a Global Ambassador. It was in part thanks to her support that golf was added to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Sörenstam’s exceptional career has inspired a new generation of players, none more so than New Zealand’s Lydia Ko. In just four years as a professional, Ko already holds 12 LGPA Tour wins as well as two Major titles. In 2015 she also became the youngest player of either gender to achieve number one status as a professional.
Meticulous technical precision is a hallmark of the master watchmakers who work on the intricate mechanical movements of a Rolex timepiece. These qualities can be found in the playing styles of both Sörenstam and Ko. Both players are obsessed with precision and practice and both rely on accuracy and elegance. They can outthink their competition and are relentlessly consistent. This formula led Sörenstam to set the benchmark in golf and Ko is following in her footsteps, while leaving footprints of her own.
At the Evian Championship, where Rolex is the Official Timekeeper and Partner, Ko became the youngest woman to win a Major championship in 2015. She went on to make history by recording back-to-back Major victories at the ANA Inspiration in 2016, becoming the youngest golfer to win two Major championships in a row.
In 2011, Annika Sörenstam, in conjunction with Rolex and the LGPA, created an award that recognizes the player with the outstanding record in all five Major championships on the women’s tour. Indeed, it seemed fitting that in the 2016 season claimed the sought-after title and paid homage to her golfing predecessor. “Just to have it named after Annika and how successful she’s been in Majors and just in general, and what she’s done for the game,” Ko said, “I think some of us might not be here if it wasn’t for a player like her.”
Ko is the torchbearer for the new golfing generation and bares the same passion for the sport that saw Annika Sörenstam inducted a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Swedish icon sees a bright future for women’s golf and said of Ko: “She is responsible for sparking increased interest in our sport not just in her native South Korea and adopted homeland of New Zealand, but also among juniors across the globe.” This burning passion for the sport will inspire the next generation of golfers and is a unique quality held by two of Rolex’s most famed Testimonees.