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An Interview with Karrie Webb

Karrie Webb is one of Australia’s most celebrated sports stars. During her professional golfing career she scored at total of 41 wins on the LPGA tour, inclusive of 7 majors. Karrie is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and remains an integral part of women’s golf in Australia.

Golfing girls who are serious about turning pro all vie to compete in the annual Karrie Webb Series. The series is designed to award the top 2 women amateur players the chance to travel to the United States and visit with Karrie during one of her professional tournaments and experience life on the LPGA tour.

In the following interview, Karrie chats candidly about the current state of women’s golf in Australia, the future of our sport and how players can best adapt to the modernisation of a professional career in golf.

LGM: Hi Karrie, thanks for taking the time to talk with Ladies Golf Magazine. We’ve got Karis Davidson (a previous Karrie Webb Series winner) on the cover of our Winter issue along with a few other up & coming golfers. What are your thoughts on Karis as a player?

KW: Karis is a great! What I love about Karis is that she has stuck to her guns and believed in the processes that she has. I think she proved some doubters wrong, and she sort of beats to her own drum. Karis has a great personality and I just love how confident she is in herself - I think that's really been a key to the early success she's had in her professional career.

LGM: Absolutely, confidence is key. Karrie, where do you see women's golf in Australia at the moment?

KW: It's definitely building. Especially with the likes of Hannah Green, Minjee Lee and Su Oh all playing well over the recent years. Then, of course Karis’ achievements (on the Japan Tour) and obviously Steph Kyriacou doing what she did last year. Steph winning Bonville as an amateur and then going over to Europe and winning rookie of the year over there - I honestly think if she had had a full season, she could have been one of the best players in Europe.

LGM: Yes, Steph is an amazing golfer, certainly one to watch, she’s actually the cover star of our last issue. Ok, let’s get back to discussing women’s golf in oz in general…

KW: Sure, we’ve had lots of positives in recent years, which is good. I think it's all about building the numbers and getting more women and girls playing the game. That way the talent pools at the top end of the game are healthier and there's more competition up there for the good players. The more players you have at the elite level, the better the chance of producing champions that are going around the world and winning some of the biggest events.

LGM: It’s great to see female golfers getting more media coverage. I watched the recent WPGA ‘Athena’ event at the Coolangatta – Tweed Golf Club on Fox Sports, which aired during prime time weekend viewing. Karrie, you were commentating at the event; did you enjoy it?

KW: It was really good. It's a great initiative that the WPGA came up with, and then something a little different, not your traditional four-day golf tournament, and it was terrific to highlight some of the up-and-comers. I just think for the majority of the events we're going to have, they're going to be the traditional four-round event, but these one-off events are gaining momentum. Plus, people are getting to see players' personalities a bit more and seeing a different side to golf.

LGM: Regarding the Karrie Webb Series, where is the final event held this year?

KW: It's over in WA, the results will depend on how many of the girls head over there, but it's all pretty close. Covid has disrupted a lot of the players being able to travel about to attend the series. Grace Kim is doing really well on the world rankings, but she actually hasn't played in a lot of the events.
Editor’s note: after this interview, Grace Kim went on to win the 2021 Karrie Webb Series and then headed straight to the USA for the Augusta Women’s Amateur.

L to R: Becky Kay, Karrie Webb, Grace Kim


LGM: It’s seems like more golf brands are coming on board to promote and support women’s golf. Adidas has done a lot of work with juniors, amateurs and up-and-coming pros with events and clinics all over Australia which is terrific. Thoughts?

KW: Yes, definitely in Australia, it appears that way, which is excellent for our game.

LGM: How important do you think it is for golfers to develop a relationship with their sponsors?

KW: It’s very important. Obviously, it's a different proposition now than when I was first being sponsored. I mean then, it was all about visibility on TV and those sorts of things. But it was also more about corporate days and how you interacted with the clients of your sponsors and stuff like that. Whereas now the visibility is more important, certainly TV coverage helps but it's all about impressions on social media too - your overall social media presence. There's a lot of pressure on the girls to actually create what their image is. When someone first talked to me about my brand, I was like, "Come on, you're crazy. I'm a professional golfer.”

LGM: Ah, well, you sure don't need to sell yourself.

KW: I don't have a brand, but now that's a part of branding if you know what I mean.

LGM: For the current crop of girls, it seems to be all about creating that content. But I think it can go both ways. Someone like Steph Kyriacou for example, she's so genuine and authentic, she doesn’t strike me as a ‘hard sell’ type of gal on social platforms at all. She's more like you, deliver the results and let them come. Whereas other players and I guess it's a bit different because they're not necessarily professional golfers, but say Tania Tare for example, she really boosted her profile through Instagram.

KW: Well for the younger girls going out on tour and trying to find sponsors, I think their social media presence has a lot to do with a company being interested in them. Rather than you win five times a year and you're on TV this amount of time. That seems almost less important now than how many followers you have on Instagram.

LGM: True, true.

KW: And Facebook and all of that.

LGM: I agree but I still think there is merit in allowing your results speak for themself. I'm finding (as a journalist) that a lot of the younger golfers that I profile don't have management. They're not experienced in reaching an audience on social media, signing the right sponsorship agreements etc.

KW: I signed with IMG back in the day and I don't know if it was totally necessary to work together back then, but it definitely was helpful. They didn't get me any monetary deals until I won the British Open. I advise the girls about a lot of these management companies. I’m like yeah, they could be helpful, but a lot of them will ask you for upfront money to start with. So, just be cautious.

LGM: That’s sage advice. Ok, I'll wrap our chat with a quick cliche question that I'm sure you've heard a million times. Karrie, what are some of your favourite Australian golf courses?

KW: There's a lot! I'm really fond of the fanned out courses, Kingston Heath is right up there. You can't go past Royal Melbourne either. Then on to the Mornington Peninsula at the National - the old course down there. Victoria has plenty of top golf courses. In saying that, I do love the New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney too.


LGM: Yes, we’re incredibly lucky to have so many excellent courses. It's almost an open-ended question there that I gave you! Thanks so much for your time Karrie. The next issue is out soon, and I’ll be sure to get a copy to you.

KW: That'll be great, thank you, I’m looking forward to reading it.

THE KARRIE WEBB SERIES

The Karrie Webb Series events are held across Australia with at least one in each state. Minimum standards are established for conducting the events by Golf Australia (e.g. number of players, quality of golf course, scheduling dates).

Players are awarded points based on their finishing position, which forms a subset of the Golf Australia Order of Merit. Points are weighted according to the quality of competition.

Players must compete in a minimum of six events from the KWS to qualify with total points accumulated from the best six finishes, regardless of the number of events contested.

The Karrie Webb Series runs annually and concludes each year in April.

Western Australia’s Kirsten Rudgeley and Grace Kim from New South Wales are the recipients of the Karrie Webb Scholarships for 2021.

The scholarships are awarded based on performance in the Karrie Webb Series, the World Amateur Golf Rankings, community work inside or outside of golf and performance and demeanour as an ambassador for golf in Australia and overseas.

Because of the impact that Covid-19 travel restrictions had on the fields in many of the qualifying events, one of the scholarships this year was determined solely as a result of a selection decision by Karrie Webb in discussion with Golf Australia staff.

Rudgeley, 20, is a first-time recipient of the award, while Kim, also 20, takes up the scholarship for the fourth year.

In February at Kooyonga in Adelaide, the pair were the top two finishers in the Australian Amateur, with Avondale Golf Club’s Kim coming out on top.

“I was so shocked to receive this scholarship because I know how prestigious it is,” said Rudgeley, who has previously won three WA Amateurs and a Victorian Amateur.

“This scholarship means the world to me. It will allow me to travel internationally to play events and most importantly to meet Karrie for the first time. I feel like all the hard work and time I’ve spent on and off the course has finally paid off, not only for myself but for my family.”

Kim, who this week is the only Australian playing in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, has previously won multiple New South Wales Amateurs, the Australian Amateur, the Australian Junior Amateur and a Youth Olympics gold medal. She is the top-ranked Australian in the women’s world rankings for amateurs.

“I’m so thrilled to receive this scholarship again,” she said. “I can’t thank Karrie enough and acknowledge her generosity enough. Honestly, she inspires me more every year to succeed as she has and to give back as she continually does. She is the idol of so many female golfers, myself included.

“I feel very lucky to receive this opportunity to develop my game by travelling and playing.”

The two recipients will receive mentoring and guidance from the great Karrie Webb, winner of seven major championships and five Women’s Australian Opens among more than 50 worldwide victories. They will also receive funding to cover travel to play in overseas tournaments in 2021.

Although some specifics of their scholarship are still subject to Covid-19 travel restrictions, last year’s recipients spent time at an LPGA Tour tournament with Webb as well as practising with her.

“After a challenging year, I’m really happy that the series was able to be contested, albeit that it was harder for the girls to play in all the events they would have liked,” said Webb. “It’s a credit to GA and all the state bodies that any of these events were able to go ahead at all.

“I’m excited that the two recipients are a veteran of sorts, and a first-timer. Grace Kim is now the first four-time recipient, which shows how consistently well she has played over the past four years, capping that off with the Australian Amateur win this year.”

“Kirsten Rudgeley is a first-time recipient this year and from all accounts played the most consistently good golf over the events she was able to play. I have heard a lot of great things about Kirsten’s game and look forward to meeting her very soon.”

The Karrie Webb Scholarship dates to 2008. Past recipients include the likes of LPGA Tour stars Minjee Lee, Hannah Green and Su Oh.

Main photo credit: Scott Powick

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