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Green's coach: Women's PGA champ spurred by fellow Aussie Lee

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Hannah Green came up in the shadow of the more highly touted Minjee Lee in Western Australia, but Green’s coach says that may have helped Green’s development.

“In some ways, Minjee’s success has helped Hannah,” Ritchie Smith, Green’s coach, wrote Monday in the PlayersVoice, an Australian online platform. “She’s taken all the press, all the limelight. It’s just meant we could take our time developing Hannah a bit more.”

Green didn’t take too much time, however, becoming just the third Australian woman to win a major championship with her victory Sunday at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. It was Green’s first LPGA title.

Though Lee arrived at Hazeltine last week as the third-ranked player in the Rolex Rankings with five LPGA titles, Green beat Lee to a major. 

Green, 22, and Lee, 23, were both raised in Perth. Lee blossomed early, winning the U.S. Girls’ Junior at age 16 and becoming the world No. 1 amateur after winning the ALPG’s Vic Open at 17.

“Minjee also got all the support,” Smith said. “It’s not that Hannah got no support, but she got less support.

“If you were going to select two players to go to the New Zealand Amateur, for example, you were going to select Minjee and someone else. And it was likely that someone else would come from another state.”

Smith said that never aggravated Green.

“At the time, she would acknowledge that Minjee was kicking her arse and she would be happy to say that: ‘If she’s kicking my arse why shouldn’t she get the funding and support?’ That’s the sort of person she is. She doesn’t ask for anything but she’s appreciative when she gets it.”

Green jumped 85 spots to No 29 in Monday’s release of the newest world rankings. Lee held her spot at No. 3 after tying for 30th at the Women’s PGA Championship.

Smith is hopeful Green can join Lee in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as representatives of Australian women’s golf.

Karrie Webb, who was in the gallery rooting for Green on Sunday, relishes what Green and Lee can do together. They’re both Karrie Webb Scholarship winners. Lee has three top-10 finishes in majors, with her best finish a T-3 at the ANA Inspiration two years ago.

“Australia women's sport has really been in the forefront in the last few years,” Webb said. “A couple of different kinds of football and women's cricket have really been in the forefront of sports news, and now with Ashleigh [Barty] winning the French Open and becoming world No. 1, we're really playing catch up, as far as where golf fits in that.

“So, it’s huge what Minjee has been doing and the fact that Hannah now has joined that. I just think it's such great timing for us to grow the women's game and have young juniors want to be Hannah Green and Minjee Lee. It couldn't have happened at a better time for the growth of women's golf in Australia.”

Smith wrote that he wasn’t surprised to hear about Green stopping on her way to the eighth tee Sunday to accept and read a poem from Lily Kostner, a 7-year-old fan. Green said she put the encouraging poem into her yardage book and read it a couple times on her way to winning.

“At any other time, we would expect that of a sports star, but to break her momentum and focus at such a critical time is just not something many players would do,” Smith wrote. “It speaks volumes of her but it’s just what she’s like. If I ask Hannah to come and do a junior clinic for me, she just does it. If I ask her if she has a spare set of clubs I can give to an underprivileged kid, she just does it. She’s just a terrific person and it’s an honor to work with her.

“One of our state team creeds was to be the most deserving player in the field. Deserving to us means you’ve not only worked the hardest. It also means you’ve been a great person; you respect your opposition, you’re grateful, polite, friendly and humble. Hannah’s the epitome of that.”