It is certainly premature to close the book just yet, but we thought that sooner, rather than later, was the time to have a look at the career of Australia’s greatest woman golfer, Karrie Webb.
Based on her age and her most recent victory, her 41st Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) title, the JTBC Founders Cup on 23 March 2014, it would be a near certainty that she has quite a bit of productive golf in her future. As of late August 2015, she is ranked in the top 30 for season earnings. She has also recorded 22 eagles to this point in the season, good for fourth position, which is the sort of statistic you would not expect from a player looking to gracefully close out a career, but is more indicative of a player that hits it long, hits it accurately, concludes the deal with superb putting, and has every intention of remaining relevant.
With 19 seasons fully behind her, and the 20th soon to be, she has spent half her life as a professional golfer at the highest level the sport offers, so if this look at her career comes off as a bit of an awestruck homage, so be it.
Karrie Ann Webb AM (21 December 1974) was born in Ayr, Queensland, on the east coast, 88 kilometres south of Townsville. For a town of only 8,000 citizens, Ayr has contributed a fair number to the world of sports, including rugby and football. It might be a good spot to open a pub, since there are only six at the moment.
She played for the Australian Amateur team, playing internationally from 1992 to 1994. She was the Australian Strokeplay Champion in 1994, shooting an eight under par 128 for a 36-hole affair on a course set to par 68.
Webb turned professional that same year, joining the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour. It was not long before she won the 1995 Golden Flake Golden Ocala Futures Classic in 1995. She also won the Weetabix Women’s British Open, part of the European PGA. The victory also went towards her tally for the LPGA, even though she did not officially join that tour until 1996. She more than caught the attention of the golf and sporting world with that victory, when she won by six strokes with a 14 under par total that left America’s Jill McGill and Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam helpless in her wake.
First up in January of 1996, she got the better of Jane Geddes and Martha Nause, two Americans, in a playoff victory in the HealthSouth Inaugural. She won three more times that season, without requiring playoffs, to win the Sprint Titleholders Championship, the Safeco Classic and the ITT LPGA Tour Championship, defeating such notables as Nancy Lopez and Patty Sheehan along the way. She was declared LPGA Rookie of the Year, one of those awards that was clearly a no-doubter. She earned just over $1 million for the year to lead the tour.
Webb continued her dominant performances in 1997. She won her second consecutive Women’s British Open, leaving her nearest competitor eight strokes in arrears. That followed an April 1997 victory in the Susan G. Komen International. She repeated her win from the previous year’s Safeco Classic, this time going 16 under par to post a one-stroke win over Sorenstam, who is generally considered the greatest woman golfer of all time.
Her first win in 1998 was the Australian Ladies Masters, where she again went low, matching her 16 under par total from the Safeco Classic, albeit on a course set to par 72. This time, the closest her competition could come at the end was five strokes, this time over South Korean Hyun Soon Park and again Sorenstam. Finally in 1998, Webb won the City of Hope Myrtle Beach Classic, posting an easy three-shot win over Meg Mallon by shooting an impressive 19 under par aggregate 269 on a par 72 layout. She shot four consecutive rounds in the 60s for her 10th LPGA title.
The following year, 1999, was to prove better, if such is truly conceivable. Her first win was The Office Depot, followed by a mind boggling 10-shot margin in the Australian Ladies Masters, where she was an equally mind boggling 26 shots better than par. May of that year found Sorenstam once again in her rearview mirror, three shots back, in the Mercury Titleholders Championship.
The highpoint of that 1999 campaign, however, was undoubtedly Webb’s first Major, the du Mauier Classic, the national Championship of Canada, currently known as the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. She was the second Australian woman to claim the title, following Jan Stephenson’s 1981 win, and one of only 3 non-U.S. winners dating back to the 1974 year of Webb’s birth.
Along with her first career Major, she led the tour in earnings, collecting, according to official records, $1,591,959. That figure could have been slightly off, however, because Webb may have picked up the shilling England’s Laura Davies was using to mark her ball. Webb was also named LPGA Player of the Year.
Webb started the 2000 season in identical fashion to that of 1999, with a January win in The Office Depot, where another significant American golfer, needed binoculars to cover the interim betwixt she and Webb. She then once again won the Australian Ladies Masters, suggesting that perhaps the tournament should be renamed the Karrie Webb Masters.
Her second Major came that year. In what was becoming a somewhat routine occurrence, she left the field 10 strokes behind her in winning the Nabisco Championship. She was a bit, but only a bit, more merciful with her second Major of 2000, when she won by only five shots in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Webb was again top money winner for the year, with over $1.8 million, and once again Player of the Year, after closing out the season with two more wins, the AFLAC Champions providing her with her 23rd LPGA career win.
She added her fourth and fifth Major victories in 2001, including her second consecutive U.S. Women’s Open, another shellacking given to the field, this one by eight strokes.
Her sixth Major and third Women’s British Open came in 2002, where another Australian, Michelle Ellis, finishing in a second place tie.
Webb would not win another Major until 2006, and has not since. In betwixt the British Open in 2002 and the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2006, she notched two more LPGA wins; her 29th and 30th, with a nine-stroke win in 2003 and a five stroke win in 2004 that once again featured Annika Sorenstam breathing Webb’s fumes.
She was noticeably absent from the winner’s circle in 2005, however, the World Golf Hall of Fame chose to induct her.
Webb followed her 2006 Nabisco Major with four more wins, bringing her up to 35 for her career.
A two-year drought ensued, at least from the perspective of wins. In 18 appearances, she failed to make the cut only once, and did have multiple top-10 finishes and one second. 2008 was similar, her best result being a second place, and she missed just one cut in 20 starts.
Since 2009, Webb has won six more times, bringing her LPGA tally up to 41 victories, the most recent being the aforementioned JTBC Founders Cup in March of 2014. That tally ties her for 10th all time.
Combined with her wins on other professional tours Karrie Webb claims 57 professional wins. He LPGA winnings alone are close to $20 million, which she should easily eclipse by year’s end, and her year-to-date earnings of $352,813 ranking of number 22 in the world is nothing of which to be ashamed. In terms of career earnings, she trails only Anika Sorenstam, by roughly $3 million.
The list of her achievements and awards is extensive, some of which we have mentioned, but the final ones we would care to bring up are the three LPGA Vare Trophies she received in 1997, 1999 and 2000 as the player having the lowest scoring average for the entire season.
At this point in her career, it is difficult to predict Karrie Webb’s future. She certainly has earned the privilege, should she so choose, to chuck it all and return to Ayr or any place else she desires to enjoy the fruits of her efforts.
She currently resides in Florida, and it would not surprise us in the least to see her soldier on in an attempt to catch Sorenstam for the all-time earnings title, but it is also quite possible that that title would not mean much to her, as the growth in purses for women’s golf means that it would be entirely possible for someone to win less yet earn more.Just five years before she turned professional, the LPGA awarded just over $17 million in prize money. Five years ago, 2010, that figure had more than doubled to $41.4 million. Figures for 2014 indicate that the figure has grown to over $56 million.
Regardless of what Karrie Webb decides, or how the future plays out for her, we consider it an absolute privilege to have witnessed some of her exploits, especially the low scores and dominating victories over some of the finest women golfers who ever lived.