03 Jul 2020 | Professional golf | Feature stories |
Great Australian Moments 20: Top of the world
by Martin Blake
Rachel Hetherington and Karrie Webb were fierce competitors week-to-week, both at home in Australia and on the LPGA Tour overseas. But for a week in December, 2000, they were closely linked as part of a great Australian triumph.
Their win in the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Golf, played at The Mines resort in Kuala Lumpur in that year, has not received the attention it deserved because the tournament has since had various incarnations and formats.
But at the height of their powers, good friends and rivals Webb and Hetherington overran Sweden on the final day, and Australia had a golfing World Cup to go with the cricket and rugby versions that were in antipodean hands at the time, too.
Webb’s bona fides as a legend of the game and World Golf Hall of Fame inductee are plain. But Hetherington, born in New South Wales and later domiciled in Queensland, had a great career of her own.
In a sense, she was unfortunate to arrive on the scene at the same time as Webb; otherwise, she might have won many more tournaments.
As it is, Hetherington won eight times on the LPGA Tour, beat the great Annika Sorenstam three times in playoffs, also won in Europe several times and in America in 2003, won back-to-back LPGA tournaments.
She also won the Evian Masters in France before it was designated as a major.
In Malaysia in 2000 the Australians had to chase a Swedish team piloted by Sorenstam and backed by her younger sister Charlotta, who were six shots ahead as late as the third hole on the final day. But Webb was relentless, shooting a four-under par 68, while Hetherington shot a solid 73.
Australia won by three shots with a three-day total of 275. "It's been a wonderful year and this really is the icing on the cake," said Webb. "Now it is going to be a great Christmas back home. And it's great to be the first names on the trophy, and it proves how strong Australian women's golf has become."
The World Cup was meant to become something big. Alas, it disappeared for a few years after 2000, reemerging as a full LPGA event from 2005 to 2008, and then going into abeyance again. Since 2014, women’s team golf has been played out in the form of the International Crown, an LPGA Tour event which is held biennially.
Hetherington was three times runner-up in the Women’s Australian Open and her titanic duel with Webb at Yarra Yarra in 2000 provided some of the best golf ever seen at the national women’s Open. Hetherington pushed her great rival to the limit, starting the final day two shots behind and shooting 65. Webb had to shoot 64 to win.
That was in February 2000. In Malaysia that December, they were a formidable Australian duo to say the very least. World-beaters, in fact.
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