Australia may not be known in the United States as a hotbed for golf, but the country has not had a shortage of talented players over the years.
One such person from Down Under who has made a name for herself on the links is LPGA pro Karrie Webb.
The Aussie started playing golf at the age of eight, was the 1994 Australian Stroke Play champion and represented Australia in international competition six times from 1992 to 1994.
After turning pro in October 1994 and competing on the Futures Tour and the Women Professional Golfers’ European Tour (WPGET), Webb, 29, qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt, after finishing second at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament while playing with a broken bone in her wrist.
During her 1996 rookie LPGA season Webb captured four tournaments, making her second only to Nancy Lopez as the rookie with the most wins. Lopez won nine times in her first full season on tour. Webb was the first rookie on either the LPGA or PGA Tour to reach the $1 million mark in single season earnings and reached that mark in just 10 months and three days.
During the 2001 season, in her first 12 starts, Webb achieved victories at two major championships, three second-place finishes and eight top 10 finishes. She also successfully defended her U.S. Women’s Open title. She was the only player to finish under par at the Open.
With a couple of U.S. Open titles in her back pocket, one might think she would rest on her laurels and be satisfied. That is not the case with Webb. She has continued to improve her game and make herself one of the most recognizable names on the women’s tour.
In a June interview with tour officials following play at the Kellogg-Keebler Classic, Webb noted that patience and determination are important.
“You just never know,” she said. “You have to try to be patient. Golf’s a funny game. You can be playing poorly and then go and win a tournament. You see that a handful of times every year where a person that hasn’t been playing that well pops up and wins.”
As the ladies’ majors hit the courses in recent weeks, Webb was asked if she was fired up to turn around what has been a little sluggish playing at times this year.
“Well, yes. You look at the schedule and in the next probably six or seven weeks if you have a couple good weeks that pretty much makes your year. I think anyone that isn’t fired up right now shouldn’t probably be out here. I’m just looking forward to the summer. Like I said, I’m just trying to continue to improve and get better.”
Webb recently took time out from the links to chat with Insurance Journal in an e-mail interview.
Insurance Journal: Talk a little bit about how your career got started and how your parents and any other family or friends helped you along the way.
Karrie Webb: It was sort of just a family sport. My mom and dad were pretty keen golfers when I was young and so were my grandparents, and I just sort of tagged along with them.
IJ: What was it like winning the U.S. Women’s Open and what do you look at as some other career highlights?
Webb: Well, obviously I think my two U.S. Opens are at the top of my list and obviously winning in Australia is special.
IJ: How popular is golf in Australia and what has been done to promote the sport there?
Webb: I think it’s as popular as it ever has been and it continues to grow as it does all around the world. There are great amateur bodies that have good programs right from the grassroots level to professionals.
IJ: How challenging is it to both play and travel to numerous tournaments during the year?
Webb: I think travel is probably the downside of playing professional golf, but you’ve got to do it. Sometimes it’s bad, but like I said, you’ve got to do it.
IJ: Where do you see the ladies golf game in 10 years? There seems to be a great influx of young talent that will carry the game even further.
Webb: There are a lot of great young players out there right now, and they just seem to be younger and younger when they come out. I think that’s great for the game. I think it’ll definitely keep growing and we’ll be playing for more money and hopefully our ratings will be even higher than they already are.
IJ: Any advice for young women out there who are interested in pursuing golf as a profession?
Webb: It is a lot of hard work, and each year it gets more and more competitive and people are working harder and harder at it. I think you’ve got to want to do it for yourself and you’ve also got to enjoy it before putting in the long hours. If you don’t enjoy it, then putting in the long hours is going to take their toll.
IJ: If you weren’t a golfer, what would you be?
Webb: Fortunately I’ve never had to think about it. I’ve always wanted to be a professional golfer and I’m glad that came true.
IJ: Since many insurance agents love to play golf, what advice do you have for them for improving their games?
Webb: I think for a lot of amateurs, their alignment is always out. I think just going to their local club professional and those sorts of things are good so they can get pointers. I think most amateurs think they hit it further than they do, so try not to hit an 8-iron your career-long distance. Just try and smooth it and hit it 135 instead of trying to hit it 155.
Good advice from a woman who has not only made a name for herself, but has helped popularize the game as well.
Editor’s note: Look for some of the top professional women golfers at the Wendy’s Championship for Children at Tartan Fields in Dublin, Ohio, Aug. 19-22.
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