The following article originally appeared in The Times (London).
Anna Nordqvist was never supposed to win the Race to Dubai in 2009. The year before, she had gone close several times before it fell apart, and she was playing on her way back from an eight-month layoff because of a break from golf.
But she and her Scandinavian boyfriend, Bjorn Rehn, were inseparable and became a couple, sometimes hanging out at a pub, watching the Champions League match between Chelsea and Manchester United, while he was working, to the howls of derision from his staff.
“The players are pretty untouchable,” said Rehn, a Dane who works in Swiss banking. “They can be in a restaurant and everyone else in the restaurant would be talking about a guy who works here, not the guy that’s trying to win the tournament. Anna really needed to come back strong and out of the blue she got lucky.”
“If she would have come back strong, she probably would have missed the cut at least once,” added Rehn, who remembers the moment clearly. “I don’t know how many times we went on the golf course and she won.”
Nordqvist, 25, is as proud of her accomplishments on the course as Rehn is. Over the past six years, she has won the Race to Dubai three times, including her first victory last year. She already holds the top spot in this year’s standings after winning her sixth event, on the LPGA Tour at the ANA Inspiration in California, and hoping to add a PGA Tour event in the next few weeks.
“I got the lucky breaks,” Nordqvist said. “It was a hard year where I almost didn’t qualify for the majors. Then I missed the cut at one of the majors and you always get mad and disappointed. But you learn from it. I know it’s still my time.”
Born in Sweden, Nordqvist (pronounced Nord) and her family emigrated to the United States when she was 9. She started off at Arizona State, where she studied economics and public administration before giving up golf for a while, then bounced back to get a degree in business administration.
She has always been outspoken in her defense of women’s golf and believes those who say the sport is not a viable career option for women have a skewed view of the sport.
“I was not going to be a lawyer or a doctor,” she said. “I was going to be a winner.”
Still, her sudden emergence as a star turned some heads.
“I think her accomplishments are great,” said Tom Watson, the 1995 U.S. Open champion who now acts as vice president of the U.S. Golf Association. “It really takes some grit to be a winner on this tour.”
The youngest of the 10 women in the European Tour field at the Masters this year, Nordqvist fell behind on the front nine. She wound up finishing third, five shots behind the winner, Lexi Thompson.
“I missed one of the first two putts on the back nine and that really put the wheels in motion for the tournament,” Nordqvist said. “Sometimes I think that I get put into too much of a frame of mind that I’m expected to win so I think I try too hard, but that didn’t happen on the back nine.”
What she meant by that was Thompson won the tournament with a record 19-under par, shooting a 65 on Sunday.
It was Nordqvist’s best finish this year, and only her fifth top-10 finish in the 28 events she has played. For the past four years, she has been finishing in the top 10 in her “bread and butter” events, tournaments she has won at least once, she said.