HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Another breakthrough for Annika Sorenstam

Annika Sorenstam will break another barrier. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

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It all started with a phone call.

Lee Trevino started out by saying that 56, 57, 58 and 59 didn’t matter.

But his wife Claudia’s 60th birthday?

She wanted to go on a trip and it coincided with Trevino’s annual commitment to play in the traditional Saturday Greats of Golf at the Insperity Invitational with fellow Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

Bryan Naugle, the executive director of the event, paused for a moment as he was retelling the story. Then he chuckled as he delivered the punch line, which was vintage Trevino.

“I love ya buddy, but you’re not worth a divorce.”

Naugle didn’t skip a beat. He prides the event on being innovative and creative, so he picked up the phone and called Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, who didn’t hesitate.

She said absolutely. She was in.

Talk about perfect timing. Not only is Naugle celebrating the 15th year of the Insperity Invitational this week at The Woodlands, but it also happens to be the15th anniversary of Sorenstam’s appearance in the PGA TOUR’s Colonial National Invitation.

Add in the Masters’ recent announcement of a women’s amateur event next spring and the fact that Champions Golf Club will host the 2020 Women’s Open and . . . Well, it’s not a bad time at all to have the best female player in modern times to be the first woman to play in your Greats field.

She flew in Thursday with Nicklaus and Player for a tournament event and will be paired with them Saturday. It’s a fun event that will have Annika, the Golden Bear and the Black Knight compete in an 18-hole scramble format against three other teams composed of Tom Weiskopf, David Graham and Tony Jacklin; Dave Stockton, Larry Nelson and Hale Irwin; and Fuzzy Zoeller, Charles Coody and Bill Rogers.

“This is the first time I will have the opportunity to play in the same group with Jack and Gary, so I cannot wait to get to The Woodlands and have some fun with these men who were among my golfing heroes,” Sorenstam said.

“It is a tremendous honor to be included in this prestigious group of 12 players. This doesn’t only promise to create special memories for the spectators, but it will be a day I will cherish for the rest of my life as well.”

 In 2003 she was saying similar things about playing at Colonial.

That week it was all about Annika – no last name needed – as the focus not just of the golf world, but the world, was on Fort Worth. She drew a satellite compound of alphabet news networks. Everyone was there to watch her test herself against some of the best on the PGA TOUR on a course she had never played, just seen.

Suddenly, she wasn’t just the standard the LPGA players measured their skills. She was making history.

That she headed home after two rounds didn’t really matter. She shot  71-74-145 and missed the cut by four shots. She also exposed her weakness – putting – but won the respect of the players and the golf world.

She brushed away tears in her post-round press conference that Friday saying, “I’m glad it did it, but this was way over my head. I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was.’’

Actually, she was. With a few more rounds at Colonial Country Club, she might have made the cut. Instead, she simply climbed her Mt. Everest.

“I’ve climbed as high as I can,’’ she said at the time. “And it’s worth every step of it.”

She was 32 at the time and talking about the next phase of her life – a family. She wasn’t going to split time raising children and playing events as Juli Inkster and others have done.

Five years later, she retired having won 72 tournaments, including 10 majors.

Today, her ANNIKA Foundation conducts five major golf events for juniors on four continents and she’s a go-to interview for everything on the game. Not just the women’s game.

So when the Masters announced it’s first women’s event ever, she weighed in.

“As a little girl, knowing you have a chance to play on the greatest stage, it would’ve sent me to the range,” she told Golf Channel. “It’s heaven on earth, there’s no doubt about it. Now you get these young girls who will have their dreams come true.”

Saturday, she’ll get the chance once again to break a barrier – albeit a smaller one. It’ll be history and those girls will be watching.  And dreaming.

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Houston gets the best of the Dodgers

Astros behind McCullers Jr. get shutout win in hostile Dodger Stadium

Yordan Alvarez added some big insurance runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Having dropped two of three in San Francisco against the league record-leading Giants over the weekend, the Astros exited an off day on Monday and entered a hostile environment at Dodger Stadium in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. With some timely hits and an excellent start from their starter, Houston would grab the win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0

Astros' Record: 65-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-2)

Losing Pitcher: Walker Buehler (11-2)

Houston scores first as McCullers Jr. out-duels Buehler

After nearly turning the game's very first pitch around for a home run but instead going foul, Jose Altuve still started the game with a single in the top of the first. A double play would erase him, though, as the game remained scoreless into the top of the third. Martin Maldonado led that inning off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Walker Buehler, then scored on an RBI double by Michael Brantley, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Houston threatened again in the top of the fourth, getting two on with two outs, bringing up Martin Maldonado with an empty base, which the Dodgers would use by intentionally walking him to get to Lance McCullers Jr., who grounded out to strand all three runners. He made up for it on the mound, though, out-dueling Buehler, who finished six innings while allowing a run by getting into the seventh scoreless. He would get two outs into that frame while giving up a single and a walk, leaving two on base for Blake Taylor, who came in to get the third out. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 110 P.

Alvarez adds insurance as Astros take the opener in LA

Clinging to the one-run lead in the top of the eighth, Carlos Correa worked a one-out walk to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who demolished a 415-foot two-run homer to add two big insurance runs, extending the lead to 3-0. Kendall Graveman took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and, despite allowing a leadoff single and hitting a batter, was able to finish a scoreless inning.

With Ryan Pressly on the paternity list, Houston handed the ball to Ryne Stanek to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He would get the job done, earning the save by retiring the Dodgers in order, giving the Astros the win at the dismay of the fans in Los Angeles.

Up Next: This short series's second and final game will begin thirty minutes earlier on Wednesday at 8:40 PM Central. For the Dodgers, they will get the debut of Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA), while Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros.

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