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Knowing when to quit: Golf legend Sorenstam displayed perfect timing

updated 8:26 AM EST, Thu November 29, 2012
Since retiring from professional golf, Annika has started a family with husband Mike McGee, with Ava born in 2009 and William two years later.<br/><br/> Since retiring from professional golf, Annika has started a family with husband Mike McGee, with Ava born in 2009 and William two years later.

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Annika Sorenstam retired from professional golf in 2008 at only 38
  • She won 93 tournaments including 10 majors in glittering career
  • The American-based Swede is building a business empire
  • Sorenstam is married with two young children

(CNN) -- What does a sporting legend do when they walk away from the cut and thrust, the adrenaline fueled buzz of top flight competition?

In many cases they make a comeback in an attempt to rediscover former glories and some like tennis player Kim Clijsters, who won three more grand slams, make a success of it.

But more often than not in ends in failure, with seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, who quit for the second time at the end of this season, and multiple world boxing champion Ricky Hatton, knocked out in his comeback fight, recent notable examples.

In golfer Annika Sorenstam's case, you get "busier than I've ever been" and pursue a business career while running a foundation and looking after a young family -- all with the inner drive and determination that took her to the top in her chosen sport.

Her decision to quit back in 2008 came as a shock. She was only 38 and still a contender at the highest levels, but once she made the break it was total and final.

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Her last competitive event was in Dubai in December of that year and she has not trod the professional fairway since, marrying her second husband, Mike McGee, in 2009.

They have two young children, Ava born that year and William in 2011, who arrived 13 weeks premature, but thankfully with no ill effects.

But through her commercial and golf design interests, promoting the ANNIKA brand of clothing, Sorenstam is still heavily involved in the game she loves.

Timing in business just like golf is everything and the Swede told CNN that launching new ventures in a global recession was "tough."

Growing portfolio

But she was not going to allow something as trivial as economic turmoil to divert her from her goals and Sorenstam has put her name to a growing portfolio of signature golf courses, mostly in Asia.

Back at home in Orlando, Florida is the base for her academy, where players of all standards can sign up for tuition, and her non-profit making foundation, which offers young golfers opportunities to fulfill their potential.

She also has an interest in a winery and financial group, as well as making occasional appearances on the Golf Channel.

Like her male counterparts such as Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman, who have built up business empires off the course, Sorenstam believes the work ethic is the key.

"There are a lot of similarities with the things I learned on the golf course, such as focus and determination," she told CNN. "Without drive and vision you can't start anything, it's a little bit in you."

I remember what it was like to come down the stretch in the lead, but then I look at my kids and know that I am happy where I am in my life
Annika Sorenstam

Sorenstam retired just at the time when Asian players were beginning to dominate the LPGA Tour, including World No.1 Yani Tseng, who the Swede has mentored. It helps they are near neighbors in Lake Nona.

"I share my experience of what it's like to be at the top, to always look at the big picture," said Sorenstam.

Asian success

She believes that the wave of success that Tseng and others from the region are riding, will continue after Asian players won all four of the women's majors in 2012.

"They have tremendous support from their families, are prepared to start practicing at seven o'clock in the morning and stay there all day," said Sorenstam.

The introduction of golf at the 2016 Rio Olympics -- Sorenstam was in the delegation which presented to the IOC -- will she believes further fuel the ambition of women golfers from all over the world to challenge the traditional American domination of the LPGA Tour.

Sorenstam led the charge of overseas players during her glittering career, which saw her win 72 LPGA events, including 10 majors, and 21 other tournaments.

She is the career leading money winner at over $22 million and broke new ground by becoming the first woman in 58 years to compete in a men's PGA Tour event.

Her appearance at the 2003 Colonial in Texas put women's golf to the top of the sporting headlines and despite narrowly missing the cut, Sorenstam did enough to earn the respect of her male counterparts.

"I wanted to challenge myself, to get better, to learn from the best in the world, to push myself to the extreme."

Boost interest

Where Sorenstam led, others like Michelle Wie followed in men's events, but she knows that the LPGA still has a long way to go to match the coverage given to the PGA Tour.

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To boost interest, she would like to see the two tours run combined events as the same venue as happens with ATP and WTA tennis tournaments. "It would be great for fans" and would pave the way for more equality in prize money she believes.

The 42-year-old was recently named vice-captain to fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann for the 2013 Solheim Cup in Colorado.

She performed the same role as Europe beat the United States in the biennial team event in Ireland in 2011.

But is she ever tempted to make a playing comeback?

"I think about when I turn on the golf on TV," she admitted. "I remember what it was like to come down the stretch in the lead, but then I look at my kids and know that I am happy where I am in my life.

"To play with my husband and two children would be my favorite foursome now."

Juggling the demands of a busy professional and business life, her diary is hectic, and finding time for her young family, would test anybody.

But one has the feeling that Sorenstam is totally committed to her new life away from professional sport and wild horses could not drag her back on the fairways of the world.

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