30 Jun 2022 | Amateur golf |

Webb welcomes scholarship stars

by Dane Heverin

Kirsten Rudgeley, Karrie Webb and Caitlin Peirce in front of the picturesque clubhouse at Congressional Country Club.
Kirsten Rudgeley, Karrie Webb and Caitlin Peirce in front of the picturesque clubhouse at Congressional Country Club.

Amateur stars Kirsten Rudgeley and Caitlin Peirce could be forgiven for thinking last week was a dream.

Playing three rounds of golf with Australia’s greatest ever major champion, eating dinner with our country’s best female golfers, rubbing shoulders with legends and roaming the fairways of Congressional does sound like it could be too good to be true.

No one needed to pinch Rudgeley or Peirce to see if they were awake however, as Karrie Webb took her two scholarship recipients under her wing to show them what major championship golf is all about at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

After Minjee Lee - a former Webb scholarship winner - triumphed at the US Women’s Open earlier this month, Webb said she had started the scholarship program in 2008 with the vision of her recipients experiencing major golf, aim to play in them and aim to win them.

Two-time scholarship recipient Rudgeley and first-timer Peirce are in the early phase of that grand plan, but they are already comfortable among the game’s elite.

“It’ll definitely go down as one of the best week’s I’ve ever had,” Peirce said.

To kick off the week, the South Australian had the pleasure of spending her 20th birthday with Webb, Rudgeley, Lee, Hannah Green, Steph Kyriacou, Sarah Kemp and Sarah Jane Smith as Webb organised dinner for the Australian contingent on Monday night leading into the tournament. 

“It was really cool. This is my first trip to the US and spending that time with Karrie definitely made me feel a lot more comfortable,” Peirce said.

“We got to meet a lot of cool people because we were with her too.”

The dinners with “cool people” did not end there as they also attended the champions dinner at Congressional as guests of the 2001 champion.

“To hear all the past champions stories of what they used to get up to was cool,” Rudgeley said.

“The difference in what the money is now was just ridiculous. I didn’t realise how much it’s really moved on. It was good that Karrie introduced us to a lot of people there and it was great to chat to some legends.”

Peirce said that major champions Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel both had a lot of great stories, while the scholarship recipients also had the honour of getting an iconic photo with Webb, Green and Jan Stephenson - the three Australians to have won the Women’s PGA - next to the trophy.

Hannah Green (2019 champion), Jan Stephenson (1982 champion) and Karrie Webb (2001 champion) with Caitlin Peirce and Kirsten Rudgeley.
Hannah Green (2019 champion), Jan Stephenson (1982 champion) and Karrie Webb (2001 champion) with Caitlin Peirce and Kirsten Rudgeley.

From those events and their three rounds of golf with Webb, it will be Rudgeley and Peirce who now have the great stories to tell.

Being able to say you taught Karrie Webb a new shot or remembering the two times you bested a seven-time major champion will have everyone listening.

West Australian Rudgeley is renowned as a superb bunker player by those who have followed her rise through the amateur ranks and her mastery of that craft quickly caught the eye of Webb.

“I hit this bunker shot and she was like ‘show me how to do that again’,” Rudgeley recalled.

“That was pretty cool.”

Peirce still can’t believe that she claimed bragging rights as the trio played split sixes - a game where there are six points up for grab on every hole and those points are split up based on how players fare on each hole.

“I definitely played a lot better than I expected that first day because I was fresh off the plane,” Peirce said with a laugh.

“I was a couple under that day at Woodmont.”

She also got the chocolates in their third round at TPC Potomac, while Webb came out on top when they played at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

Those rounds took place in the mornings before they ventured to Congressional to watch the world’s best go to work.

“Hannah and Minjee playing together on the Saturday worked well for us,” Peirce said.

Most of their time was spent following the Australians in the field, but they also made sure to catch a glimpse of some of their other heroes.

“Karrie said to me ‘who do you want to follow?’ and of course I said ‘the Aussie girls’,” Rudgeley said. “But I also wanted to follow a bit of Nelly (Korda) because I’d never seen her before.”

In some ways, that week was just the beginning of the pair’s relationship with Webb.

Rudgeley will once again link up with her at the World Amateur Teams Championship in Paris this August as Webb takes on captaincy duties for the Australian team.

They will both be striving to play alongside her at the Australian Open this December, but they are not coming home just yet as they stay in America to play tournaments and Webb’s support is not ending.

“She already sent me a message after my round the other day,” Peirce said. “Getting a message from her definitely makes you feel good about your round.”

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