PHOENIX – Karrie Webb is inspired playing the JTBC Founders Cup in a way no other player is.
She might be the only woman who teed it up at Wildfire Golf Club who received a pep talk on the weekend from one of the four living founders of the tour.
Webb got a phone call Friday night from Louise Suggs, her spitfire voice informing Webb that she needed to shoot 64 to win this event for the second time in its four-year history.
“She says, `Hey Karrie, it’s Louise,’” Webb said in her best gravelly voiced imitation of her friend and mentor. “She always starts the conversation that way.”
Webb didn’t deliver what Suggs wanted on Saturday, but she did one better on Sunday. Webb shot 9-under-par 63 to charge from six shots back.
“I made it up to Louise,” Webb said. “It’s meant a lot that I’ve had such a great relationship with her. She’s a character. She’s got great stories, and she’s always leaving me voice messages.”
Webb first met Suggs after she won the Titleholders in 1996. Webb won $190,000, which rivaled the U.S. Women’s Open as the biggest checks in women’s golf. Suggs was there to congratulate Webb after.
“I want you to know you just made more in one week than I made my entire career,” Suggs told Webb.
There was mutual admiration, and the seed of a friendship planted.
“Karrie has one of the best swings in golf,” said Marilynn Smith, an LPGA founder who watched Sunday’s finish with fellow founder Shirley Spork and pioneer Renee Powell from a special stage behind the 18th green. “Her swing reminds me of Louise Suggs, the rhythm, the balance, the timing.”
Webb won the inaugural Founders Cup in 2011, and it seemed preordained. Nobody appreciates more what the founders and pioneers did paving the way for the today’s players.
“I’ve watched the way Karrie is with the older players, with the founders, and there’s a lot that the younger players can learn from her,” said Stacy Lewis, who tied for second. “Karrie is somebody I’ve always looked to for how to do things the right way. She does that, and it’s probably why she’s playing well here this week. She gets it. She gets what this week is about.”
Webb, 39, is already a Hall of Famer. Her victory was the 41st LPGA title of her career, moving her into 10th place on the tour’s all-time winner’s list. She’s in historic company, now tied with Babe Zaharias, one of the LPGA’s 13 founders and maybe its greatest athlete.
“I just love the feeling of this event,” Webb said.
After claiming the $225,000 first-place check, Webb thanked LPGA commissioner Mike Whan for creating the tournament, which he designed to honor the game’s founding members and pioneers in a way that “pays it forward” to the future of the women’s game. Webb then told the fans at the trophy ceremony that she was donating $25,000 of her winnings to “The Founders Film,” a documentary being made about the 13 women who founded the LPGA. She also announced she was donating $25,000 to LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, the charity beneficiary of the event.
“They interviewed me for the documentary this week,” Webb said. “After, I asked them when they thought it was going to be finished. They said it all depended on the funding and that they only had about 10 percent of the total funding needed.”
Webb wants to see that movie made, and as LPGA pros learned again Sunday, it’s difficult to stop her when she really wants something.
Four seasons ago, Webb started the final round here at Wildfire Golf Club six shots back but mounted a charge to win by a shot.
At Sunday’s start this year, Webb was six shots back again. Playing the back nine, she was still six back.
At the 10th tee, Webb started wondering what it might take to win. She thought shooting 29 would give her a chance, but she didn’t even tell her caddie what she was thinking.
“I thought it would sound ridiculous,” Webb said.
Webb birdied six of the last eight holes. She buried a 20-foot birdie at the last to take the outright lead, but then she had to wait two hours to find out if it would hold up.
Four players ended up teeing it up at the 18th needing birdies to tie Webb.
Azahara Munoz and Amy Yang missed their chances. Behind them, Mirim Lee missed her chance. Finally, Lydia Ko, with the last chance to force a playoff, missed her 40-foot birdie chance.
“It’s just sort of one of those things that snowballed into a great back nine,” Webb said.
A persevering back-nine charge that honored the spirit of the founders.