Veteran Karrie Webb, Still on Top of the LPGA Tour

At 46, the Australian native is the winningest active golfer in the circuit

Posted 3/21/21

She doesn’t play as many tournaments today, but Karrie Webb is still swinging with the best and the youngest in the field.

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Veteran Karrie Webb, Still on Top of the LPGA Tour

At 46, the Australian native is the winningest active golfer in the circuit

Posted

She doesn’t play as many tournaments today, but Karrie Webb is still swinging with the best and the youngest in the field. At 46, the Australian-born veteran has 41 LPGA Tour wins behind her, more than any other active golfer playing the circuit. She turned pro in 1994, and two years later was both ‘Rookie of the Year’ and 'Money Winner' at the premier ladies' Tour. Her biggest personal moment was the 1995 British Open where she became the youngest female ever to take the course, firing a -10(278) with a 6-stroke margin that set her on a championship path. Ten years on, the Queensland prodigy became the youngest woman to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame (since broken by South Korea’s Pak Se-ri). Sports History Magazine caught up with Karrie and asked her to share her story with our readers.

You were born in a small town in northern Australia. When did you realize that golf was your calling?

Golf was a part of my family’s life right from when I was born. Being the eldest child of three girls, I just wanted to be like my parents and grand-parents. I loved golf right from my first memories of it. I’m not sure if that was my calling but I thought golf was always going to be a part of my life.

Growing up, did you have any golf heroes, or heroines?

Women’s golf was not visible at all when I was growing up, so my biggest hero was Greg Norman. He was one of the most dominant players in the world in the 80’s and 90’s. Coming from Australia, it was easy to look up to someone that was so successful all over the world.

In 1996, you were both 'Rookie of the Year' and 'Money Winner' at the LPGA Tour. That was quite an accomplishment for a young person. What do you remember most from that season?

Well, I had come off a very successful rookie year on the European Tour, winning the 1995 British Open. So, I came to the LPGA Tour with already a bit of belief in myself. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I was going to achieve the things I did in my Rookie year in ‘96. I guess my memory is that early on I just couldn’t believe that I was winning against the best players in the world. By the end of the year, I was more comfortable and knew that I belonged out on the LPGA.

How do you compare your style of play with someone like Annika Sorenstam who was probably your biggest rival on the golf course?

I think early on in our careers our games were quite different. I was very raw with natural talent and understood the game very well at an early age. Annika wasn’t as long as me back then, so she was more methodical and precise. She didn’t make a lot of mistakes and didn’t get too up or down. As we both matured, Annika got a lot longer which changed her approach to how she played. I really just refined what I already had. There’s no doubt that we pushed each other to be better.

To date, you've had 57 professional wins in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. What are some of your most memorable games?

I am very fortunate to have had success on the golf course. It is hard to narrow down which are the best of the bunch. If I had to pick, I would say first is winning the ‘95 British Open; that win really set me on my way. The second would be my first win on Australian soil, the ‘98 Australian Ladies Masters. Third would be the ‘01 US Women’s Open. It was the most complete tournament I ever played in a major. Lastly, I would say the win at the ‘06 Kraft Nabisco Championship, holing out on the 72nd hole to eventually force a playoff and win was the most emotion I’ve ever experienced on a golf course.

What are your favorite golf courses?

I have to say now that my playing career is slowing down, I have a long bucket list of courses I need to get out and play. As far as ones I have played, I have a soft spot for Australian courses. The Melbourne sandbelt courses are all some of the best in the world. If I had to narrow it down, though, I would say Kingston Heath GC. Another favorite would be New South Wales GC in Sydney.

Did you have any trainers, or even caddies, who made a difference in your performance?

My first and only coach until I was 29 was Kelvin Haller. The Ayr Golf Club where I learned to play didn’t have a teaching professional at the club when I first started. Kelvin who was one of the best players in the club and good friends with my parents took the job of coaching me and led me all the way to being the best player in the world. When I was 16, Kelvin was left a quadriplegic after an accident. He continued coaching me and inspiring me with his will to just get on with life. Kelvin is still a huge part of my life now and I still practice with him when I’m home in Australia.

In 2001, you teamed up with David Duval to play against Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam in a made-for-TV tournament between the 2 best male and 2 best female players in the world. How enjoyable was that event?

It was a really great event, especially considering it’s never been done again. For me, I think it would have been more enjoyable for Annika and myself had it not been scheduled for the Monday of our British Open. It was an opportunity to put Women’s golf on the map playing alongside Tiger and David so we couldn’t turn it down. Our minds, rightly so, were always ahead and thinking about the major we were about to play in a couple days half way round the world.

Is the strategy behind the game any different for men than it is for women?

I don’t believe the strategy to playing golf is any different from one person to the other. At the end of the day, you play and plan your game based upon your strengths and weaknesses no matter who you are. Certain people are capable of playing certain shots due to strength, but other than that the goal is the same for everyone.

Do you think young women today are more drawn to golf than they were a generation ago, or has the interest remained the same?

I think golf in general has had its ups and downs with participation levels. I think Women’s golf is not immune to that. I think in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s the Women’s game was at its most popular in the Western world. Currently, I think women from all walks of life are being drawn to the game. It definitely became more global.

You're still active in the LPGA Tour after 24 years. How is your swing holding out?

My game is in fine shape for the work that I currently put into it. I don’t play tournament golf as much, so therefore I’m not putting the time into it I once was. You only get out what you put in. I worked my butt off for over 20 years and squeezed every bit of talent I had out of me. My expectations are a lot lower now but having achieved what I have, I think you always believe there’s some magic left in there somewhere.

What's next for you on life's agenda?

I’m currently working on what the next steps are for my life. I was never one to look at the next step while I was in the current stage of my life. Putting 110% into my playing career was my focus for all of those years. Now I am taking the time to see what the next steps are. I have one piece of the puzzle started already. I have formed a golf course architecture firm with Ross Perrett, called Perrett Webb Golf Architects. We have a couple of projects already up and running and are looking for more work to keep us busy. So that’s an exciting step.

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