Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Sorenstam offers sick golfer a place in her tournament

AP , MT. PLEASANT, SOUTH CAROLINA

Annika Sorenstam of Sweden plays a shot at the third hole during the second day of the Lexus Cup in Singapore on Dec. 16.

PHOTO: AP

Annika Sorenstam invited a talented teen golfer with a rare heart condition to help launch her US LPGA tournament.

Sorenstam awarded a sponsor's exemption to 14-year-old MacKinzie Kline for the US$2.6 million Ginn Tribute, hosted by Sorenstam from May 31-June 3.

Kline is one of the top-rated junior golfers in the US. She'll play on the Arnold Palmer-designed RiverTowne Country Club Course at the Belvidere Resort.

Because of her medical condition, Kline can't walk long distances without becoming fatigued. The US LPGA issued a landmark ruling allowing Kline to become the first player in the organization's history to ride a cart during her rounds. Kline, who'll also have oxygen at her disposal, was born without a spleen and a heart that has only one ventricle.

US LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens said her group studied Kline's request for a cart and determined it wouldn't give her an unfair competitive advantage. The US LPGA believes "it is imperative to support the participation of all qualified players to the extent that the integrity of the competition is not affected," she said.

She underwent open-heart surgery twice before she was 2. In 2005, doctors repaired a hole in her heart and found a blood clot above the valve of her ventricle.

"MacKinzie is a very unique and determined young lady and we are thrilled to have her play in the Ginn Tribute," Sorenstam said. "What she has accomplished, not only in golf, but for the community is extraordinary."

Kline qualified for the US Women's amateur, but had to decline because she couldn't walk 18 holes.

"This is a dream come true for me," Kline said. "I've always had the dream to play on the LPGA Tour and Annika has made this a reality for me. Words cannot express my appreciation for this honor."

Kline's community service work raised awareness of her condition. At 10, she became the American spokeswoman for the Children's Heart Foundation. She set a goal to raise US$1 million for the organization, which recently reached the US$725,000 mark. Sorenstam's tournament will make a donation toward the project.

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