Date: February 03, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Giving back a thrill for Webb

There’s much on which Karrie Webb can hang her golfing hat as she gears up for the Oates Vic Open.

Seven majors, five national championships and World Golf Hall of Fame member are all descriptions that just roll off the tongue.

But as Webb, 41, prepares to play her first domestic state level event as a professional, it’s something else that puts a smile on her face.

Tomorrow, at 13th Beach Golf Links, the Queensland legend will tee off in a field containing no fewer than eight winners of the annual Golf Australia scholarship that bears her name and carries with it the dollars that she injects, almost anonymously, back into the game and country she loves.

Naturally, that signifies that much water has passed under the bridge in Webb’s career.

But it’s also a feather in her cap that she’s still the woman to beat in a star-studded field from 27 countries that has descended on the Bellarine Peninsula.

Webb typically shied away from predictions of how she might fare at 13th Beach, despite saying how much she has enjoyed the courses on her first visit to play south-west of Melbourne.

But she was upbeat about the prospects of watching those she’s helped over the first eight years of the Karrie Webb Series that rewards the country’s top amateurs.

“It’s fantastic to see so many of them here this week and how their games have progressed,” Webb said today.

“You’re never certain how much knowledge you can give to young players when you meet them, or how much they want to take on … but I get a real thrill out of having them come up and talk about our experiences together and that they took something from it.

“They’ve all turned into good players, so I’m really flattered that they keep asking me questions and that we can catch up at tournaments when we can.”

For their part, Ash Ona, Jess Speechley, Stephanie Na, Su Oh, Whitney Hillier, Bree Elliott and past Vic Open champ Stacey Keating, have all made solid transitions to pro ranks, while West Australian Hannah Green intends to take that step at some point in 2016.

To a woman, they admire Webb as both player and person.

And as Webb – who has happily fielded dozens of autograph requests even before the tournament begins – embarks on a season she hopes will end in Olympic glory in Rio, the impact and aura she has at this level of the game is clearly significant, even for those born well after she first rose to No.1 in the world.

“I’m really enjoying being here. It’s a fantastic concept and I’m glad I can be here to support it. It always means a lot to me to play at home … and if helps others out, then that’s even better.”