GURNEE, Ill. – The UL International Crown is a special week for Karrie Webb, a week chalk full of great memories and an ironic twist.
Webb’s story is the most compelling leading into Thursday’s start of fourballs.
Webb won the U.S. Women’s Open at the Merit Club in 2000, and she’s back for the first time since that victory, leading the Australians this week in a bid to win here again in the biennial international team event.
She’s sharing whatever course knowledge she can with teammates Minjee Lee, Su Oh and Rebecca Artis.
Webb, 41, has devoted herself to nurturing the dreams of the next generation of women’s golf in Australia, but over the last two years she has also devoted herself to one last dream of her own, making the Australian Olympic team.
The irony this week is that Webb is seeing the fruit of her mentoring work ripen, with Lee and Oh and Artis making the International Crown team, but she has also watched Lee and Oh move ahead of her to lock up the two Australian Olympic team spots available for women’s golf.
Back in 2013, Lee and Oh won the Karrie Webb Scholarships, a program Webb started to inspire and nurture young amateur women golfers in her homeland. They were both 17-year-old amateurs at the time. As scholarship winners, they got to spend a week with Webb at the U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack, with Webb funding the trip and sharing her life as a tour pro. They shadowed her, ate dinners with her, picked her brain.
“It was just a great experience,” Lee said. “We got to do everything that Webby would do at a U.S. Open, and we were inside the ropes so we could see all the types of shots she would play, that on-course experience, so that was really cool.”
Oh marveled that Webb would give them the opportunity during the biggest week in women’s golf.
“She’s just a really amazing role model,” Oh said.
When the Olympic women’s golf rankings began two years ago, Webb was the top Australian. The Hall of Famer seemed a lock to make it to Rio de Janeiro, but as Webb struggled this year Lee and Oh moved ahead of her in the world rankings, taking the Olympic spots.
Webb has won 41 LPGA titles, seven majors, three Vare trophies and two Rolex Player of the Year awards. She’s a Hall of Famer who has won just about everything but the chance at an Olympic gold medal.
“It hasn't been the most fun year,” Webb said. “Obviously, I wanted to play in the Olympics, something I stated back in 2009, when it was first announced. But I think the thing I'm most disappointed about is that I just haven't played well. I've really worked my butt off for two years, and I'm just not really seeing the rewards to that good play.”
Webb is seeing the rewards of the work she has done mentoring young players. She started the Karrie Webb Scholarships in 2008, bringing promising young players over to experience the U.S. Women’s Open with her.
“I've enjoyed every minute of it,” Webb said.
Webb will be paired with Oh in fourballs on Thursday.
“I've always wanted to play in a team with Karrie,” Oh said.
Webb’s encouraged by the emerging talent but wants to do even more to help.
“I want to see more than just the three of these girls representing Australia in the years to come,” Webb said. “I want there to be a competition of five, six, seven, eight girls inside the top 100, or even more, competing to get into this team and to represent Australia at the Olympics.
“And then also winning golf tournaments on the LPGA and majors and what have you.
“If I can help in any way, that's part of my future going forward.”