If there’d been the slightest doubt about the Aussie women’s passion for the UL International Crown this week, newcomer Rebecca Artis quickly shut it down.
Artis, who has foregone the defence of her Scottish Open title this week to represent Australia in the eight-team event in Chicago, stole the media conference show – at least temporarily – from Karrie Webb in explaining an earlier comment by the team’s spiritual leader that Aussies were “a different breed”.
“I can answer that,” Artis, originally of Coonabarabran in rural New South Wales, interjected to the question, originally intended for Minjee Lee.
“She's as country as they come, right?” Lee joked.
“Yeah, I'm country, definitely. I just think we're very passionate about our country,” Artis proudly beamed.
“I don't think you can get more passionate people about the country we come from.
“We love it. I think we think it's the best country in the world …”
Lee chimed in: “Because it is.”
Artis: “The Americans might disagree, but yeah, our passion, to be able to play for our country under our flag, I think all four of us will represent our flag with pride.”
And with that, the tone was set.
Lee, Su Oh, Webb and Artis barely qualified Australia for the second staging of the International Crown, but have since pushed the green and golf up to fourth in the seedings for this week’s visit to Merit Club, where Webb won the 2000 US Women’s Open.
The former world No.1, who again gracefully put aside her own disappointment of missing Olympic qualification to join her countrywomen with pride, had earlier spoken of her desire to compete in the green and gold this week.
“There (had) always been talk about having a Presidents Cup-style format on the LPGA … and I don't know if I was ever up for that as much as I would be for something like this where I'm actually playing under my flag and not under a region,” Webb said.
“I think playing under a region, even the Europeans, it's got to be hard because there are different cultures and different backgrounds.
“Australians are a different breed, and I think when we're together as a team, there's a lot of … (put it this way) it's nice to hang out with Aussies and have the banter back and forth that we do. You don't get that as often as I would like on tour.
“It's a fun week, and we had fun two years ago, but I think we'll have an even better time this year.”
Webb said the course had been set up far easier than for the USGA’s flagship event, prompting Lee to say it would be entertaining golf all week.
“The course is in great shape, in great condition, and hopefully we'll make a lot of birdies,” the world No.14 said.
Artis concurred: “It’s set up perfectly for match play. There's some reachable par-5s, a driveable par-4. The course is in fantastic condition. It's got a little bit bouncier … compared to even yesterday and Monday, so it's starting to firm up.”
Oh, paired with Webb in the tournament’s first match-up against Taiwan, said she would lean on her long-time mentor for some tips around the course.
“She won the U.S. Open here in 2000, so we have a winner in the group already. I'm just trying to see what she does. I've always wanted to play in a team with Karrie, and she's just a really amazing role model. I think she's amazing,” Oh beamed.
Webb admitted her disappointment in missing the Olympics, but said she still had the fire burning within.
“It hasn't been the most fun year. You know, the bottom line, obviously I wanted to play in the Olympics, something I stated back in 2009 when it was first announced,” she said.
“But I think the thing I'm most disappointed about is that I just haven't played well. I've really worked my butt off for two years, and I'm just not really seeing the rewards to that good play.
“(Missing Rio) could be a good reset button. I'm hoping that's the case – that the weight of the Olympics is off now; I don't have to think about that. I don't have that in my schedule.
“I'm not playing a ton of events between now and the end of the year, but hopefully I can have a good finish to the year and see where that puts me at the end of the year.”
Australia heads into the International Crown seeded fourth, and is pooled with Taiwan, China, and the tournament favourite Korea.
For the full draw and format of the International Crown, click on the link below …