Three years ago at the Interstate Series teams matches at Royal Melbourne I watched Hannah Green play and she was a very nice player. Nothing much jumped out as being particularly outstanding but nor did it appear she had any serious weakness likely to impede her path on to some sort of professional tour.
The problem is the Ladies European Tour is a financial struggle for administrators and players so difficult is it to attract any strong week-to-week corporate support.
For an Australian the LPGA, or maybe Japan, are the only options but tour life in Japan for a young Australian without much companionship from fellow countrywomen is no easy road.
Last year Hannah played the secondary Symetra Tour in the United States where players compete for a prize fund largely made up of the $500 each player pays in entry fees. Playing for your own money gets old in a hurry and the Symetra is no place to get stuck for any length of time. A year is well enough and two or three without a sponsor and you’re probably looking for another job.
The top ten players earn a card to the LPGA and Green won early, consolidated through the middle of the year and then won twice more at the end. Job done.
A couple of weeks ago she began her LPGA career in the Bahamas, tying for 11th, earning a nice cheque and adding a little more evidence she could compete with the better players out there.
I hadn’t really seen her play since Royal Melbourne so the final round at Kooyonga was something of an update on her progress and it’s fair to say she put on a more than impressive performance, playing to a noticeably higher level from Royal Melbourne.
A birdie at the 4th, an easy hole all week until the wind turned on Sunday, helped but she missed from six feet at the next after a beautiful pitch and drove right into the fairway bunker at the 6th and made a bogey.
A perfect eight iron to a couple of paces was wasted at the short 7th but after a long drive down the 8th she played the blind approach close enough to finally make another birdie.
Probably her winning chance went at the long 9th where a tactical error cost her a bogey and a two-shot swing with playing partner, Ko.
Both drove left by the bunkers but Kooyonga’s 9th is one of the very few holes on a strategic Australian course where driving by the hazards on the inside of the dogleg is a disadvantage as the line across the dune to the green is blocked by trees. It’s curious to say the least.
Ko played safely out to the right with an iron but Green went for the high, bomb draw with the fairway wood and pushed it far to the right.
With the pin tucked close to the right edge and just over the bunkers she had eliminated any hope of a birdie and Ko only highlighted the mistake by pitching close from seventy metres and making four.
Green made a bogey when a birdie was a reasonable expectation and two shots swings when you are already four behind are no good.
To her credit she hit great irons into the 10th and 11th for easy birdies and the retention of some hope she could win if Ko faltered.
The problem is Koreans don’t generally falter and Ko predictably kept her machine-like swing going all the way to the end.
Hannah parred her way through the back nine until a final birdie at the 17th to be back in 32 and third place on her own.
Her iron shots were first-class but more surprising was how long she was from the tee. Most holes she was some way past Ko and she barely missed the middle of the fairway all day.
Her big prize this week and the Bahamas money has her already set her up for the rest of the year. Likely she will now be exempt into the first major of the year in Palm Springs and the evidence of her final day at Kooyonga is we have another very competitive player on the tour in America.
Katherine Kirk who has revived her career in the last eight months and Minjee Lee were fourth and tied 5th respectively making this a fine week for the locals.
The runner–up was Hyejin Choi who last year almost became the first person to win the Australian Amateur and the U.S Open in the same year, with only a water ball at the par 3, 16th finishing her chances in the Open.
This week completed the three-year rotation of the Open at Adelaide’s best courses, the West at Grange, Royal Adelaide and Kooyonga and with three more years now secured the championship has found its ideal home and the LPGA the best courses the tour plays all year aside perhaps from the British and U.S Open.