08 Feb 2023 | Vic Open |
Webb to renew old rivalry
by Dane Heverin
It has been 15 years since Karrie Webb overcame Jiyai Shin in a gripping three-hole playoff to win her fourth of five Australian Open crowns and tomorrow they will go head-to-head once again at the Vic Open at 13th Beach.
Webb and Shin have been paired with second-year professional Cassie Porter but this time around they will share the fairways under different circumstances.
“I couldn’t believe that it’s been that long. It’s gone quite quick,” Webb said.
“Jiyai was just up-and-coming and that stage and now she’s a world veteran. She’s won majors, played on the LPGA and she’s playing really well on the JLPGA.”
That Sunday at Kingston Heath in 2008 was the beginning of Shin’s surge to stardom.
A few months later she won her first of two AIG Women’s Open titles, and she won two other LPGA titles for the year despite being a non-member.
By the end of that year, both her and seven-time major champion Webb were ranked inside the top-ten in the world.
Now, they stick to limited playing schedules to balance life and golf, but Webb is optimistic that she can relive some of the magic that was on display in that famous duel.
“It just depends which Karrie Webb shows up each day,” she said.
“It’s being sharp enough for four days. It doesn’t matter what the quality of field is – when I say quality of field it’s always viewed on world rankings but there’s so much talent in this field. It might not be names that everyone knows but there are tons of talented players here. So, you need to sharpen up and play well enough for four straight days.
“I haven’t done tons of four round events in the past three years. Anything is possible. I hope I can put myself up there with a chance to win. I’d love to have that opportunity. I’d love to be in the hunt. When I did win the Senior LPGA (Championship) last year, it was the first chance I had to win a tournament in quite a few years, so I loved the feeling of that.”
Webb’s triumph on the Legends Tour also renewed an old rivalry – with 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam – but recently her competitive golf has been more focused on helping Australia’s next crop of talent.
Webb played her first Webex Players Series event – where the men and women play together for the one trophy and one prize pool - at TPS Victoria last month and she spent time with rookie professional, and her former scholarship recipient, Kirsten Rudgeley ahead of her maiden Ladies European Tour season.
In the lead-up to tomorrow’s first round, she has also been mentoring some of the other top female professionals and amateurs in the country.
“I’m paired with Cassie Porter and I played with her and Kelsey Bennett yesterday in a practice round. I got to play with Justice Bosio at Rosebud for the first two rounds,” Webb said.
“It’s great to stay in touch with the younger girls and I always express to them and hope that they always know that whenever they need advice on anything that they can reach out.”
Women’s golf has been front-and-centre during the Australian summer with Ashleigh Buhai holding off Shin, major champion Hannah Green and Australia’s latest LPGA graduate Grace Kim in a thrilling finish to the ISPS HANDA Australian Open in December.
This year has been all about the Webex Players Series so far with South Korean Epson Tour player Min A Yoon and Australian LPGA regular Sarah Jane Smith lifting the trophies at TPS Victoria and TPS Murray River.
Webb is a big fan of the TPS concept, and she is also a long-time supporter of the ground-breaking Vic Open - which has featured men and women on the same course at the same time for more than a decade.
The opportunities available to the next generation of female players coming through are much-improved from Webb’s early days, and she believes that women’s golf in Australia is going from strength-to-strength.
“I think (the pathway) is a little more defined than it was perhaps a few years,” Webb said.
“The focus on growing grassroots golf is going to help produce more girls so that there is more depth there. Once there is more competition at the high-performance level than the girls are going to be even better than they are now.”
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