10 Jan 2022 | Professional golf | Women and girls |
Webb Cup makes its first appearance
by Martin Blake
The Karrie Webb Cup has been officially unveiled as Royal Queensland in its pomp prepares for Australia’s newest women’s tournament.
WPGA Tour Australasia chief executive Karen Lunn and longtime touring professional Sarah Jane Smith did the honours on the balcony of Royal Queensland’s clubhouse today in the absence of seven-time major champion, who is at her US home in Florida this week.
This Thursday to Sunday marks the first playing of the Fortinet Australian WPGA Championship alongside the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at RQ, women making their way into the event in a 24-player field with the same first prize -- $180,000 – plus the newly-struck trophy in Webb’s name.
“It’s fantastic,” said Lunn today. “Obviously Karrie’s one of our greatest-ever champions if not our greatest ever champion and to have her put her name to this trophy in the inaugural year of the Fortinet WPGA Championship, it means a lot.
“I think that it shows what a great champion Karrie has been and also what she does to give back to our sport in Australia. The fact that she gives support to our younger players, gives advice and is always there when they need anything, and the fact that she’s put her name on that trophy, I’m sure everyone playing this week is going to want to be the first name on that trophy.”
Smith, the Queenslander who recently passed through the gruelling eight-round LPGA Q-series to regain her tour card, said her relationship with Webb had stretched over many years and two distinct phases.
“If there’s a trophy you’d want to put your name to, it’d be something to do with Karrie Webb,” she said. “She’s been an incredible role model to all Australians really, she’s been incredible to me and I’m lucky enough to call her a friend.”
When they met, Smith was Sarah Jane Kenyon and a budding young professional out of Geelong on Victoria’s Surf Coast, and starry-eyed at meeting the woman she idolised.
“I feel like there’s the before I knew Karrie and the after I knew her,” said Smith, who is now based in America but also spends time on the Sunshine Coast. “I kind of see them as two different people because I just admired her so much. When I first got to know her, I found it really hard to be myself. I was just constantly ‘Oh my God! It’s Karrie Webb!’ But she’s just one of the most genuine people to be around and she would and has done everything she can for us. We love her and she’s a great person to be around.”
Smith has played 15 years on the LPGA Tour, where she travels with husband and caddie Duane and their two-year-old son Theo. When she started out, Smith thought she would play a few years in the US and come home to Queensland. “Things change,” she said. “I still love what I do. I’m lucky enough to have my husband with me, which makes it easier to be on the road.”
As for toddler Theo, “he’s very forgiving of us”.
Now qualifying as a veteran on the tour at 37, she feels that this phase of her career – as a mother -- could see improvement. “I think it just gives you perspective. In the long run I think it’s going to make me a better player.”
This week’s event has put a spring in the step of Lunn, a former tour star herself. “I think everyone’s just happy to be back playing again,” she said. “Obviously we’ve got some challenging circumstances this week as everyone has out there in the community.
Everyone’s glad to be here playing and I think any time the men and women here are playing together there’s a very different vibe and everyone really enjoys the experience.”
Television coverage is with Foxtel and streaming through Kayo Sports as well as with Kayo Freebies from Thursday.
Find out more at championship.pga.org.au.
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