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BETHESDA, Md. – Karrie Webb walked a lot of holes at Congressional Country Club this week but didn’t hit a shot. She’s here with Kirsten Rudgeley and Caitlin Pierce, two Australian amateurs who, as Webb’s scholarship winners, received a week at the KPMG Women’s PGA with the LPGA Hall of Famer. The trio played golf together and practiced in the Washington, D.C. area all week and followed the likes of Minjee Lee and Hannah Green during competition. A truly priceless experience.
Both Lee and Green are previous scholarship winners and stayed the week with Webb when she was competing in the U.S. Women’s Open.
“What she does in women’s golf and for us amateurs,” said Rudgeley, “it’s pretty cool. Not many golfers give back.”
Webb’s scholarship and mentorship program is a grow-the-game initiative that dates back to 2008. The roots of the idea stretch back to 1986, when Webb watched her hero, Greg Norman, compete in the 1986 Queensland Open. That’s when she told her parents that she wanted to play professionally. She even stayed at Norman’s Florida estate as a bonus for being the overall girls champion in his junior golf foundation.
Now, the 47-year-old seven-time major winner is concerned that Norman, as CEO of LIV Golf, might threaten the very tour that so greatly shaped her life. With Golf Saudi already so heavily entrenched in the Ladies European Tour, and Norman having made public statements about a desire to get further involved in the women’s game, Webb is worried that what’s happening in men’s golf could make its way over to the LPGA.
The two Aussie legends haven’t talked about it.
“I know that he’s had this vendetta against the PGA Tour as long as I’ve known him,” said Webb. “So I don’t think there would be any changing him. I would just ask him that in his ambition to succeed, that he doesn’t ruin women’s golf in the process.”
The little girl in me just died well and truly!! Has anyones childhood hero disappointed them as much as I am now?? 😢😭 https://t.co/p17klqYdCp
— Karrie Webb AO (@Karrie_Webb) May 12, 2022
At the peak of her career, Webb said she turned down money to compete in South Korean events because the timing conflicted with her preparation for majors. Webb says she’s now “like a rookie on the LPGA” when it comes to course design, and while there could be a take-projects-where-you-can-get-them mentality, she has turned down opportunities to work in Saudi Arabia.
What if piles of life-changing cash had been offered in her prime?
“I think it would be tempting if it’s life-changing for sure,” she said. “Everyone has to think about that. … I guess what I’ve learned, the fact that I have made a lot of money in my life, is it does make you comfortable; it doesn’t make you happy.
“You’ve got to live with whatever decision you make.”
The first time Green, the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA champion, ever attended a professional event was as the guest of Webb at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She enjoyed it so much that in 2017, she went on her own to stay with Webb at the Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, while competing on the Epson Tour.
It’s been a fun week so far!! More golf to played and watched! https://t.co/rTdtuiVZ4n
— Karrie Webb AO (@Karrie_Webb) June 23, 2022
Webb has hosted a couple dozen young Aussie stars over the years, helping to nurture and cultivate future champions who will inspire the next generation.
LPGA founder Louise Suggs was a great friend of Webb’s, and she worries some current players don’t appreciate the tour’s history enough.
“If the LPGA were to suffer because a group of players went and started playing on a tour similar to (LIV) and the LPGA would suffer,” said Webb, “I would hold that against them. I think they really need to think about that.”