Anna Nordqvist wants to better balance her golf career and personal life

Anna Nordqvist  at LPGA Volvik Championship May 26 2017
Anna Nordqvist, of Sweden, watches her tee shot on the seventh hole during the second round of the LPGA Volvik Championship on May 26, 2017 at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich. Nordqvist is scheduled to defend her title in the ShopRite LPGA Classic, beginning Friday at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, N.J.

Anna Nordqvist has enjoyed a steady career climb on the LPGA Tour, one that began eight years, ago when she won in her fifth start as a professional - and first in a major - at the McDonald's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock in Maryland.

She has won seven times in all, including back-to-back victories the last two years at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, where she will begin play on Friday at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, N.J. She has won nearly $7.2 million in earnings and has designs on a fifth straight European Solheim Cup team berth.

The road has included a few bumps since she left her native Sweden and attended Arizona State for two years before turning pro. Now in her ninth season and ready to turn 30 in less than two weeks, Nordqvist is aware of other possibilities besides golf, and she'd like to embrace those more.

Or as she succinctly put it: "I'm actually trying to play less this year so I can actually have a life.

"A lot of times you come back from a tournament, you just kind of unpack and then repack and practice and go to the next one," she said recently during media day at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. "So this year, I'm playing a little less just to have more time.

"There's something more important than golf results. My older brother has three kids, so they basically feel like mine, and I pretty much FaceTime them every day. I talk to my childhood friends and the people outside of golf that are back in Sweden. So I just try to have something where I can be the person I am and not just the golfer."

Nordqvist describes herself as "pretty ambitious." She showed that trait right away at Arizona State, where she was national freshman of the year her first season and all-Pac 12 the second. But success in the LPGA was fleeting.

After winning the McDonald's LPGA and the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship in her rookie year, she didn't win again for five years. In 2012, she seriously considered quitting the tour and returning to Sweden.

"I didn't have the best people around me, and I had no desire to be on a golf course," she said. "My younger brother came out in the summer to caddy for me, and it was the best summer of my life. He pretty much gave up his career to save mine, and I'm forever grateful to him.

"He really helped pick me up and believe in myself. It's not just about the golf. This is your life, and there's so many factors to it. You have to be happy off the course. You need to have a good perspective off the course.

"I have no family in the U.S. It's hard. I miss all the family dinners or meeting up with childhood friends. I actually got to spend Easter at home this year, the first time in 11 years I spent Easter at home."

Family is important to Nordqvist, who has two brothers. Mikael is three years older, and Mattias is three years younger. Both played some professional golf, but they tired of the travel.

"I tell them they have great families and kids, and I can be jealous of that," she said. "But there's a time and place for everything. I'm only 30, so I guess I still have some time ahead of me. But this journey has been pretty cool.

"I'm very happy right now. . . . I can't say that the road hasn't been bumpy, and there has been a couple of major struggles over the years. But that just makes things better when you do work it out."

One of those jarring moments came in last year's U.S. Women's Open, where Nordqvist received a two-stroke penalty during a playoff for a rules violation that could be seen only on a super slow-motion replay. Still, she attracted many new fans for her class in defeat.

Nordqvist is 12th on the tour's money list with nearly $372,000 in eight events, including a victory at the Founders Cup last March, and 12th in the women's world rankings. After leading the tour in greens hit in regulation (78.6 percent) last year, she is sixth this year (77.1 percent).

The ShopRite Classic will be the 13th tournament of the LPGA season and third in a run of 11 straight weeks of competition. As she attempts a three-peat at Seaview, Nordqvist will pick and choose her events and get more pleasure from life off the golf course.

"I feel that maybe there is a maturity in there, enjoying the game in a different way, being out on tour and embracing opportunities instead of putting so much pressure on yourself to succeed," she said. "If I have five years left, I don't want to be looking back in five years and ask why didn't I enjoy it? I'm trying to enjoy the moment a little more than just trying to chase the future."

jjuliano@phillynews.com

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