Amateurs have stars in their eyes

 

Maddison Hinson-Tolchard watched the great Karrie Webb hit a punch shot into the seventh hole at The Grange on Tuesday and her thoughts were blunt: “Wow, that’s good!’’

Hinson-Tolchard had never met Webb, seven-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member before, although even at just 17, she knows the history.

This time, she not only met the woman who some people believe is the greatest-ever Australian golfer; she practised with her on the course.

It’s a luxury granted to all three of the top Australian amateurs in the field for the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Perth’s Hinson-Tolchard is playing as a result of winning the national junior title last year. Another Western Australian, Hira Naveed, 20, and New South Wales teenager Doey Choi have the same opportunity, having taken up invitations from Golf Australia to play in the Open and practise with Webb.

“She’s an Aussie icon and an ambassador for women’s golf in Australia, and I’ve always looked up to her. She’s always been an inspiration,’’ said Hinson-Tolchard. “I’ve had people tell me she’s nice but to meet her for the first time she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I learned so much from her.’’

They parted with what has become a familiar note for Webb, whose annual scholarship to two young female players has helped produce the likes of Minjee Lee, Su Oh and Hannah Green, all potentially strong contenders in the Open this week as professionals. Webb told her to contact her direct if she ever had any problems or questions, just as she did with Choi, who turned 19 on Tuesday, just as she has done for all the upcoming amateurs of recent years.

A plus-five marker from Concorde Golf Club in western Sydney, Choi had the same feeling as Hinson-Tolchard when she watched Webb play. “She actually played so awesome,’’ said Choi. “It was just a practice round, she was doing her own thing, but the way she hits the ball and her swing is really good. It was nice to play with her today.

“We spoke a fair bit on the course. I asked her a couple of questions and she gave me some advice and she said that if I ever needed anything just to call her up.’’

Stacey Peters, Golf Australia’s  female national pathway manager, remembers this kind of experience being not so readily available when she was an amateur. “It’s a great experience for them to play the top professional events,’’ she said. “Now, when these girls play these events as professionals, it’s not going to seem such a big deal. In three, four, five years they’ll have played them a few times. Back in the day, for me the first few that I played were as a professional.’’

As for the Webb influence, it is genuine. Webb has taken to it with gusto. Recently she said she now knew how parents felt watching their children’s scores in tournaments, refreshing the web page impatiently.  “I don’t know if we know how lucky we are,’’ said Peters. “What’s she’s doing with the girls and how passionate she is, it’s awesome.’’

Amateurs - WAO

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WOMEN'S AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Pos.CountryPlayer TotalToday
1 USA N.Korda -17-5
2 KOR J.Ko -15-8
3 TPE W.Hsu -12-4
T4 JPN H.Nomura -11-2
T4 USA A.Yin -11-6
T6 ESP A.Munoz -10-7
T6 CAN A.Sharp -10-4
T8 ENG J.Ewart Shadoff -9-1