12 Jan 2022 | Professional golf |

Webb's disciples line up the prize

by PGA of Australia

Grace Kim WPGA image
Grace Kim, a Karrie Webb disciple, is one of the favourites at Royal Queensland. Photo: PGA

By Jim Tucker

Rookie pro Grace Kim feels a bold bid for the inaugural Karrie Webb Cup is the perfect way to repay the faith shown in her by Australia’s greatest female golfer.

Kim is just four months into her pro career but already feels the right vibes to perform at the Fortinet WPGA Championship which will run side-by-side with the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland from Thursday.

At 21, the reigning Australian Amateur champion feels she has had a thorough grounding on and off the course thanks, in part, to the doors opened by Webb.

Four times, elite amateur efforts earned Golf Australia's Karrie Webb Scholarships (2018-21) that have always been far more than an impersonal cheque arriving in the mail.

Webb’s way of giving back to the next generation has been to invite and host two aspiring golfers in the US each year with inside-the-ropes access at a major to see how the best prepare.

For Kim, that gave her a greenside seat in 2019 when Australia’s Hannah Green stunned the world by winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine.

Kim was in tears herself with an Australian flag as her cape for the final round.

“It would just top off the four years I’ve won her scholarship to be able to raise the Karrie Webb Cup. It would be a dream come true," Kim said.

“Hopefully, I follow in some of her footsteps in the future.”

Kim is already on her way with a limited number of starts coming her way on the second-tier Symetra Tour in the US this year.

Being a bundle of nerves when first meeting the Hall of Fame legend and saying goodbye as a friend is one of the coolest spin-offs.

“I was so nervous before meeting Karrie for the first time (as a 17-year-old) in the US. Now we are just friends,” Kim said.

“Karrie left me several texts throughout 2021 wishing me good luck and saying to just let her know if I needed help with anything.

“Having a friend up in the high places is so good.”

With 2021’s disruptions to international travel, Webb treated Sydneysider Kim to a one-on-one trip to play four top courses in New York and New Jersey.

Webb pulled the strings only seven-time major winners can pull to get the pair onto the renowned Pine Valley, rated No.1 on Golf Digest’s 2021-22 list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses.

“It was definitely a special experience you couldn’t ask for again,” Kim said.

In all, five women in the 24-strong field for the WPGA Championship have enjoyed the benefit of Webb’s mentoring through the scholarships.

Su Oh (2013-14), Julienne Soo (2015), Karis Davidson (2016-17), Kirsten Rudgeley (2021) and Kim all had that career springboard.

“Just being able to stay with Karrie and learn a lot was great,” Davidson said.

“There was a bit of fan-girling from me when I first met Karrie but now it feels more comfortable meeting as friends. There’s a good bit of banter.

“We keep in touch and had a game of golf in Florida last year. I’ve also been to karaoke with her in Japan. She’s just a good person.”

The Gold Coast golfer is headed to the big stage this year on the LPGA Tour after hanging tough to qualify through eight rounds (68-71-69-69-73-73-70-77) at Q school in Alabama.

Anything that happens at Royal Queensland over the next four days will be a breeze compared to the stress she felt at Q school so she’s going to enjoy it.

If one of Webb’s scholarship group does win the trophy, it really would be the perfect way to say “thank you” to a champion still giving back.

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