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Early on Thursday morning, Annika Sorenstam stepped out onto the crowded first tee at the Colonial Golf Course in Fort Worth, Texas. With the elegant physical grace of a world-class athlete, she performed the complicated ritual ballet of a golf swing and propelled a small sphere out into the Texas sky and into the annals of history.

This isn't just another sports story. This is a profile in courage that will inspire a generation of women to take on challenges that they might never have considered. It is one of those seminal events in a culture's history that sometimes is not well understood.

I remember the Bobby Riggs, Billy Jean King tennis match of the early 1970s. In retrospect, a female, world-class tennis player pummeled an aging male tennis pro into submission.

To us at the time, it was a titanic battle of the sexes. Most of us assumed that a female athlete could not stand up against a male athlete, in any sport.

In winning, I think King laid the philosophical groundwork for the emergence of the federal Title IX sports initiative, which allowed hundreds of thousands of young girls to become involved in athletics, to the enrichment of our entire society.

Now, Sorenstam is pushing the envelope again. Regardless of the hype or the public persona, this is a very feminine and graceful woman challenging all of these great big men, something that takes a level of personal courage in adversity that few people could manage.

She has given all of us an example of personal courage that we will long remember.



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