Sponsors Catch Scent of First Woman on Men's Pro Golf Tour

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NEW YORK ( -- She makes an estimated $2 million in annual endorsements; he makes more than $50 million.

But while the off-the-course deals for Ladies Professional Golf Association golfer Annika

Photo: AP
Golfer Annika Sorenstam will make history as the first woman to play in the men's Pro Golf Association Tour.
Sorenstam will never reach the Tiger Woods stratosphere, her marketability should soar after this week, when she becomes the first woman in 58 years to play on the men's Professional Golf Association Tour.

Hoopla starts
Ms. Sorenstam will tee it up in the Bank of America Colonial Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas. The tournament begins May 22, but the hype and the hoopla began in February, when she announced she would accept the sponsor exemption to play against the men.

"It's win-win for her," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports & Celebrities, Evanston, Ill. "If she doesn't make the cut, [marketers] will look at her as a woman who went up against men and gave it a great shot. But if she does make the cut ... wow, what potential she'll have."

CBS extends coverage
If Ms. Sorenstam does make the cut, it means she will have scored better than half the men in the field on May 22 and 23 -- players who will pack up and go home after those two days. She will also will qualify to play in the final two rounds May 24 and 25. The early rounds will be shown on cable's USA Network, while Viacom's CBS picks up the national telecast on the weekend, and has already announced it will begin coverage an hour earlier than usual on those days.

Top winner
Last season, Ms. Sorenstam won a record 13 tournaments and more than $2 million in prize money. Based on that success, she has endorsement deals with Callaway Golf, Mercedes-Benz and Rolex, among others.

Less than three weeks after the announcement that she would play in the Bank of America Colonial, Kraft Foods jumped into the picture and signed her to a two-year endorsement deal. Spending was not disclosed, but Ms. Sorenstam will be featured in select advertising and promotions, and will wear the Kraft corporate logo on her golf shirts and golf bag.

So far, that's been the only pre-tournament deal she has cut. Ms. Sorenstam's agent, Mark Steinberg of Cleveland-based IMG, was overseas and could not be reached for comment.

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