TRANSCRIPT | Karrie Webb, 2020 Vic Open, pre-tournament press conference

KATHIE SHEARER:  Last year was a different year for you, just not so many events, very few events.  Did you just try and cherry pick the ones that you wanted to go to? KARRIE WEBB:  Yeah, that’s sort of been the case for the last two years.  I played nine events in ’18 and nine last […]

KATHIE SHEARER:  Last year was a different year for you, just not so many events, very few events.  Did you just try and cherry pick the ones that you wanted to go to?

KARRIE WEBB:  Yeah, that’s sort of been the case for the last two years.  I played nine events in ’18 and nine last year, just cutting back my schedule so I can spend more type in Australia.  It was really the main ‑‑ and I just didn’t have the heart to put in the full commitment that was needed and I felt like I was missing out on life by playing a full schedule.  So it’s been a good mix of the both.

KATHIE SHEARER:  And your golf course design with Ross Perrett now is taking up much more of your time and keeping you in Australia more.

KARRIE WEBB:  Yeah, yeah.  Hopefully it will take us all over the world, but yeah, so far it’s given me a little bit to do when I’ve been home.  You know, we won the job at Indooroopilly to redesign 36 holes there, so we’ll be there for quite a few years.  It’s been really exciting.  I’ve known Ross for many years, so it’s great to partner up with him, and hopefully it’s the first job of many.

KATHIE SHEARER:  What about your game, what kind of shape is your game in at the moment?

KARRIE WEBB:  It will depend on what the pencil wants to do on the scorecard tomorrow.  It’s not too bad playing casually, but I haven’t played a tournament since August, so it’s completely different playing with your mates or even today versus when it really counts.  It’s a bit of an unknown, but it doesn’t feel too bad for not having done as much as I normally would have coming in.

KATHIE SHEARER:  And the topic for everybody that we’re speaking to seems to be the success of the men playing with the women.  We had Stacy Lewis just in before and she said that she had a practice round with three fellas out there and really enjoyed it and they seemed to enjoy it as well.  A different kind of golf, a different way of playing the holes.  How do you feel about this event with the men’s and women’s together?

KARRIE WEBB:  I think it’s fantastic.  We don’t cross paths ever until this tournament.  What I loved is this event’s been around for many years, but last year with the co‑sanctioning, the LPGA and the men’s European Tour, for whatever reason it got the attention of the world.  Now, you know, it’s the hot topic as far as a concept for a golf tournament.  Annika and Henrik are doing one in Sweden.  There’s a few popping up around the place. 

I think going forward it could be a great model for companies that want to make sure that their money’s spent equally in sport.  You can say that automatically if you have a men’s and women’s event for the same purse.  You don’t have to justify that to your board or to your investors, you’re equally helping out men’s and women’s sport in one event.

Q.  A couple years ago at the Australian Women’s Open you spoke at length about creating pathways for young women to have legitimate careers in golf and make enough money to retire.  Is the importance of this event in some ways perhaps more symbolic that it is possible to do and that becomes a reality quicker?

KARRIE WEBB:  Yeah, I think so.  I think obviously having two events in Australia co‑sanctioned by the LPGA just gets young girls, we’re on TV that little bit more.  We’re on TV when we’re playing overseas, but at different times of the day.  Like this is afternoon sport Saturday, Sunday.

You know, it’s good that we have that.  I think with this model with the Vic Open, you know, it would be great to see it replicated in all the state opens and have five, six, seven events like this around the country for guys and girls.  The pathway would be not that your choice is ‑‑ especially for girls, there’s a little bit of money here for the guys, but there’s not really that much for the girls.  You know if you’re turning pro, you’re going overseas.  It would be nice to know that you can have some experience playing professional golf at home before taking that jump overseas. 

So if we could create that sort of pathway here in Australia so that the guys and girls have some tournament experience before they go overseas, I think it makes that next step or that jump in level that much more attainable than I just played the Australian Amateur and now I’m going to LPGA Q‑School.  That’s a huge step, a big jump forward in level of play.  To be able to have that stepping stone would be huge for the pathway of golf in Australia.  And they would be on TV more often, so more and more people will see golf and want to pick up golf.  Kids will want to play, so it’s a win‑win.

Q.  We’ve seen in some other sports (inaudible) soccer and cricket are really forging ahead.  Is there a danger of golf being left behind if you don’t make the most of this opportunity?

KARRIE WEBB:  Definitely, definitely.  You know, I was a sports mad kid, but all my sports heroes were men because there was no women on TV.  And one of my aspirations if I wasn’t a professional golfer was to play cricket for Australia and that wasn’t ‑‑ I knew that even though women’s golf wasn’t a visible thing, I knew it existed, where women playing cricket for Australia was not ‑‑ that wasn’t visible at all when I was growing up.

So I think of myself as a 10‑, 11‑year‑old girl if I was watching TV now, would I have gone golf, you know.  There’s so many more options.  So that’s why golf has to create these pathways and create more visibility, so that we do keep up with these other sports that honestly have more income to allow these pathways for the girls.  But yeah, we’ve got to step up our game as well.

Q.  Karrie, you’ve had some interesting involvement in the Vision 2025 efforts to get more girls playing.  Do you sense any change in momentum in terms of that or is it too slow?

KARRIE WEBB:  I mean, obviously it’s Vision 2025 for a reason, it’s a long‑term plan.  I think what’s fantastic, though, is we have Hannah and Minjee flying the flag, and obviously Su Oh, plenty of the girls, but Hannah and Minjee winning, Hannah winning a major.  Again, that visibility is great.  I think with the grassroots stuff that’s being done, I mean, they had a junior clinic here yesterday and there was a ton of girls out here.  That’s just fantastic to see.

You know, the more that ‑‑ the more events that we have like that that we go into communities and get the kids out just to get a golf club in their hand and if they have a great experience that might bring them back.

Q.  I don’t know exactly the question I want to ask, but can you describe the feeling of having had people go through the Karrie Webb Series and when (inaudible) scholarship, to see them win a major championship?  Is that just something you could never have dreamt of?

KARRIE WEBB:  I don’t know if I ‑‑ I think the way it happened, I probably never would have dreamt of.  Just last year’s experience was kind of the ultimate for the Karrie Webb Series. 

So we rented a house like we always do with extra bedrooms, so I asked Hannah and Su (Oh) if they wanted to stay, so we had Hannah and Su and Becky Kay and Grace Kim, who were the scholarship winners last year in the house, and Stacey Peters was there as well, who is a past scholarship winner as well.

For that to happen and then Hannah to lead wire to wire and win was just an incredible experience.  Probably the worst job I’ve ever done of mentoring was I probably celebrated like I won and probably wasn’t the best mentor that night, but I did show them how to celebrate the right way.

Q.  Is your heart still beating out of your chest when you think back to that moment?

KARRIE WEBB:  Yeah, I think I understand what my family and friends went through watching me because even though you’re out there and you’re nervous, you’re in control and you know how you feel. 

So I was nervous for Hannah just because I wasn’t in control, but she impressed me so greatly because she looked like she had been there a hundred times.  You know, she never ‑‑ her pace, the way she walked never changed.  She had a tough period there through the middle of the round and you wouldn’t ‑‑ just by looking at her body language, you would never have known that.  You can’t teach someone that, that’s just very special talent and special mental strength. 

And then I sat in on her press conference.  I’ve always thought that Hannah understood the game really well, but her press conference just confirmed that to me because she had everything ‑‑ like what she was telling herself was everything she should have been telling herself. 

The fact that she did that to win her first tournament and it was a major, you know, I don’t think she understands exactly that gift that she has, and I don’t want it to be taught to her.  I think that’s going to carry her on to many wins without her playing her best golf.  And even that week she probably said that there was periods that weren’t that impressive.  I played a practice round with her and she was struggling a little bit, but champions can always win not with their A‑game.  Most of the time you’re not winning when you’re at your best, but you just know how to manage your game when you’re not at your best.

Q.  (Question regarding her contribution to golf.) 

KARRIE WEBB:  Well, I think my contribution to ‑‑ my give‑back to golf, this is greater than what I actually personally achieved because I think when I’m doing that, I’m not ‑‑ that isn’t about giving back to golf, that’s taking from golf and doing something that I personally set out to do.

But my give‑back for what golf has given me has been as rewarding, if not more rewarding.

Q.  Now you’re in the golf course design business and the distance report has come out today?  Have you seen much of that?  Do you have any thoughts about distance in the game and whether it’s a problem we need to do something about?

KARRIE WEBB:  Yeah.  We don’t ‑‑ on the LPGA, I don’t know if it’s ever explained well enough, but the technologies designed for those guys, it’s not designed for even us.  We get a little bit of benefit out of it, but it’s designed for guys that have swing speeds over 115 miles an hour and anyone that’s 120, 125 miles an hour, they’re the ones that can hit it 30 yards further with a certain diver or a certain golf ball. 

For the rest of us, we might find small incremental changes, but overall I think it does because in golf course design, like Indooroopilly, we’re redesigning that golf course.  They’re losing some land because they’re selling it off for development, so it’s not going to be an overly long golf course, if they were to play the Queensland Open there or the Australian Amateur there or whatever.  So the challenge is then you don’t want to trick it up too much but you need to make it ‑‑ it has to have a defence.  I think Royal Melbourne proved beautifully that that was under 7,000 yards and, you know, it wasn’t a birdie‑fest out there and it wasn’t stupid, like ridiculously hard and fast greens like I’ve seen there.  It was quite playable and they still struggled a little bit.

But with the distance, I think they do need to ‑‑ it can’t keep going, it has ‑‑ there has to be a limit at some point because golf’s going to run out of room.  We can’t build bigger and longer golf courses.  And the best ones ‑‑ the great thing for women is that these great old golf courses in the States that never wanted us to play on them now can’t host a men’s event because they’re too short and now they actually want us to come and play their golf course.  So for us, we’ve gotten the chance to play these great golf courses now because they’re too short for the guys, they can never hold a major championship again.

Q.  The collaboration between the LET and the LPGA, just your take on that and the state of women’s golf generally internationally?

KARRIE WEBB:  Yeah, I’m really glad the LET took that offer up.  It’s not great for the health of the LPGA for the LET to go down the tubes.  You know, some of our best players have started on the LET, I started on the LET.  You know, again, it’s a great pathway to playing on the best tour in the world.  And again, if that goes away, European girls will go and play football or another sport because they don’t see it.  So that was the best thing.

And obviously it’s been proven to be a good joint venture because with the R&A and the European Tour also coming in and helping, they’ve got quite a healthy schedule.  They’re not playing for tons of money, but it’s better than playing for nothing and no events.

So for that quick a turnaround, I mean, it’s impressive that that’s happened so quickly, but I think it’s only going to strengthen the women’s game and diversify who are the top players in the world.

KATHIE SHEARER:  Thank you, thank you for a great interview and thanks for giving us a lot to think about.

KARRIE WEBB:  Thanks, Kathie.

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