Karrie Webb is perhaps as fine a womens golfer Australia has ever produced, along with Jan Stephenson. But in 1995, she was hardly a name to be reckoned with, still a rookie on the Ladies European Tour, hardly known outside her native country. But all that was about to change.
She had won the Australian, Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian Stroke Play tournaments as an amateur. She had turned professional in 1994 at the age of 19 and finished runner-up in the second pro tournament she played ' the Australian Masters. In 95 she had crossed the Pacific to America and played a Futures Tour event ' which she won. She then crossed the Atlantic to get her European card and, in 10 events, already had recorded five top-10s.
Finally she was at the pinnacle event for European tour women, the British Open at Woburn, and waiting was a field consisting of the best of America, as well as homegrown European talent. And then ' she went right out in the first round and shot 69, leaving her only two behind Liselotte Neumann.
The secret that first day might have been the fact she was paired with a fellow Australian. Playing with Karen Lunn helped a lot, she admitted. Shes a friend, shes won here, and she made me feel comfortable.
Friday, it was more of the same. She took the lead with a 70 on the par-73 course, sinking putts on the last three holes of 25, six and 15 feet.
She called home to Australia that night, prepared to deliver a full report on her surprising news. She was a little too late.
They already knew, which surprised me, she said, but it shows how big a tournament it is.
In the third round, Webb shot a 69 with an eagle at the 18th. It was a 35-putt that gave her the lead, by one again, over Val Skinner.
On Sunday, four birdies on the first 10 holes boosted her ahead by six shots. Six shots up is where she eventually finished, looking down on the second-place finishers ' Annika Sorenstam and Jill McGill.
'I had dreams of walking up the 18th to win a tournament, but for it to be the British Open is unbelievable, said Webb. A lot of people at home will be shocked ' but happily shocked. The last few holes were the most nerve-wracking.
Webb went on to win Rookie of the Year honors in Europe, but still had to go through the LPGA qualifying school that year. She finished second there in October of 94, though she had to play with a broken bone in her wrist, and has since won 28 times on the LPGA.
As a youngster in her hometown of Ayr, she had to play with the boys because not enough girls competed. The town is small by American standards, just 8,500 people. But it has become a golfing mecca with first Greg Norman and then Webb going on the world superstardom.
I practiced every day and played on weekends, she said. Thats the advantage of a small town ' you could play and practice whenever you wanted.'
Norman was always Webbs idol. She got his autograph at a tournament when she was just 11 years old. Webb won the Australian Juniors in 1991 at the age of 15 and her reward was a week at Normans home in Hobe Sound, Fla. It was a week of hard work for Webb, not hero-worship.
Thats when I knew shed be a special player, said Norman. She has a beautiful swing.
In 1993, though, she was still working in her mothers caf in Australia. In 1994 she was working in a pro shop with only $200 to her name. But she decided to turn professional, borrowed some money from her mom, and joined the Australian womens tour.
Then it was Australia to America, America to Europe, then back to America where she has become a star of the first magnitude. But for Karrie Webb, she will always remember her first big professional victory ' the 95 Weetabix Women's British Open.