Webb, Karrie

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Karrie Webb


Australian golfer

Australian golf star Karrie (pronounced "kahr-rie," rhymes with "starry") Webb has been fighting Annika Sorenstam for the title of the best female golfer in the world since Webb joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour in 1995. Webb, who was only 20 when she joined the tour, has been compared repeatedly to Tiger Woods , since both are young phenomswith excellent records of winswho regularly outplay most of the veterans on their respective tours.

Good Teachers

Webb was drawn to the sport of golf at a very young age. Her parents and maternal grandparents were golfers, and by age four Webb, with her toy club, was following them on the links around their hometown of Ayr, Australia. "They were about the only two people in the world who were patient enough to go out with a four-year-old and play golf on a Sunday morning," Webb later said of her grandparents.

Webb's parents bought her a real set of golf clubs for her eighth birthday, and soon after she started taking golf lessons from her neighbor, Kelvin Haller, a self-taught local golf player and greenkeeper at the Ayr course. Haller

lived next door to a drive-in movie theater, and during the day he would have his students practice their drives by hitting balls into the theater's empty parking lot. By the age of 12 Webb had decided that she wanted to be a professional golfer, and by her mid-teens she was well on her way, competing in amateur events and becoming one of the best golfers in the area. She and Haller's nephews, Ryan and Todd Haller, often played together, and Karrie and Todd eventually became engaged. He served as her caddie early in her career, but the two broke up in 1996.

Kelvin Haller has remained Webb's only coach since those first lessons, even though he suffered a stroke in 1990, at the age of 36, that left him almost completely paralyzed. He still helps Webb to improve her swing when she returns to Ayr during the off-season, and Webb says that having his coaching fresh in her mind is why she usually performs so well in the early events of the tour each year. The two have also developed a unique long-distance coaching relationship that they use during the season: Webb's caddie uses specialized, fixed cameras to record digital videos of Webb's swing from the same two angles each time, and then e-mails the videos, along with such data as the distance and location of each shot, to Haller. Haller then analyzes Webb's swing and gives her advice over the phone.

LPGA Career

Webb turned professional two months before her twentieth birthday and then spent a year playing professional golf in Europe and on the Futures Tour in the United States. In 1995 she won the Weetabix Women's British Open while still on the Women Professional Golfers' European Tour. That year Webb qualified for the LPGA Tour, on her first try, by finishing second at the LPGA qualifying tournament despite playing with a broken wrist.

The next year Webb took the golf world by storm. She won the Health South Inaugural, only the second tournament she competed in as a member of the LPGA Tour, and then went on to win three other events that season. She set an earnings record by becoming the first female player ever to win more than $1 million in a season, and she was also the only rookie, male or female, to make over $1 million in his or her first season.

Not long after Webb joined the LPGA Tour, a rivalry of sorts developed between her and the then-current champion, Sorenstam. It is not a particularly acrimonious rivalry, but the two young women find themselves battling each other for wins and for first place in the statistics more often than they find themselves battling any other single golfer. Not since 1994 has a golfer not named Webb or Sorenstam won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, for example, and when Webb won an astounding seven tournaments in 2000, Sorenstam came roaring back to win eight in 2001.


1974Born December 21 in Ayr, Queensland, Australia, the first of Robert and Evelyn Webb's three daughters
1990Her golf teacher, Kelvin Haller, becomes a quadriplegic
1992-94Represents Australia in amateur international competitions
1994Turns professional in October
1995Joins LPGA Tour in October
1996Breaks up with fiancé
1999Achieves first victory in a major tournament

In 1999 Webb got her first victory in a major tournament, the du Maurier Classic, and set an LPGA scoring average record with 69.43. Then, in 2000, Webb won the first four tournaments she entered. She added only three more wins in the rest of the season (partially because she took some time off to return to Australia and run with the Olympic torch before the Sydney Olympics), but two of those wins were at majors: the Nabisco Championship and the U.S. Women's Open. That year Webb also won her second consecutive player of the year award and Vare Trophy. Throughout the year, comparisons between Webb and Professional Golfers' Association star Tiger Woods were ubiquitous. Fans of women's golf saw sexism in the fact that Woods's achievements received so much more attention from the media than Webb's did, and several even suggested that the two compete head-to-head to prove that Webb was just as good a golfer as Woods.

Early in the 2001 season, Sorenstam seemed to be emerging as the dominant player and Webb seemed to be fading. Webb was still playing excellent golffor the second consecutive year she made every single cut, and she usually finished in the topbut she just could not seem to win. Then, in June, Webb ran away from the rest of the field at the U.S. Women's Open to win by eight strokes. Not since 1980 had someone won that event by that large of a margin.

A Victory and a Loss on the Same Day

A month later, Webb became only the fifth woman in history to win the career Grand Slam when she won the McDonald's LPGA Championship at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware. At 26, she was also the youngest woman to achieve this feat. The achievement, however, was bittersweet for her: her maternal grandfather, Mick Collinson, had suffered a stroke back in Australia, and Webb revealed after her last round that she had considered withdrawing from the tournament and flying home to be with him. Her parents, who had flown in from Australia for the event, booked seats on a flight home early Sunday afternoon after they heard about Collinson's condition, and Webb went so far as to reserve a seat for herself as well. But her parents convinced her that, golf lover that he was, Collinson would have wanted her to stay and play her last round. She did, fighting back tears, but she could not really appreciate her achievement at the time. As Bill Fields of Golf World reported: "It will sink in eventually, and I know it will be really special," she said after the final round. "The only thing I wanted to do was win for my granddad, and that's all I kept thinking about."

Webb did not have as strong of a year in 2002 as she did in 2000 and 2001. She won only two tournaments, although one of them, the Women's British Open, was a major. It was her sixth win in the last 19 Grand Slam events. Some golf aficionados thought that Webb should be credited with a Super Career Grand Slam for this win, since with it she had won five out of four major championships: When Webb won the du Maurier in 1999 it was a major, but in 2001 the Women's British Open replaced it.

Potential Ambassador for the Sport

Throughout much of her early career, Webb was reticent to speak openly to reporters or to create much of a public personality at all, particularly after the press wrote some speculative articles about her personal life after her breakup with Todd Haller. She is notorious for rarely removing her sunglasses, for example. Yet Webb and her friends have always insisted that she is a warm person in private, that she is simply shy. Indeed, after her first few seasons she did become more open and humorous on and off the course. Her masterful remarks at the gala party that the LPGA held at the beginning of the 2000 season to mark the association's fiftieth anniversary, for example, did a great deal to erase her former reputation for shyness. They also did much to endear her to the powers that be in the LPGA, which is searching for a charismatic and successful player to sell professional women's golf to potential fans.

Awards and Accomplishments

Total of 28 official LPGA and 2 unofficial victories.
1994Australian Stroke Play champion
1995Named Rookie of the Year on the Women Professional Golfers' European Tour
1995, 1997, 2002Wins Weetabix Women's British Open
1996Becomes the first player in LPGA history to earn more than $1 million in a single season
1996Named Rookie of the Year on the LPGA Tour
1996Receives ESPY Award from ESPN for Female Golfer of the Year
1997, 1999-2000Wins Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average
1999Wins du Maurier Classic
1999-2000Named Rolex Player of the Year
2000Wins Nabisco Championship
2000Earns enough points to qualify for LPGA Hall of Fame (but must still meet ten-year membership requirement)
2000Recipient of Crowne Plaza Achievement Award
2000-01Wins U.S. Women's Open
2001Wins McDonald's LPGA Championship
2001Becomes youngest woman ever to achieve career Grand Slam

Webb Feat

In victory Webb showed her subtle wit and indomitable competitiveness, too. Late on Sunday afternoon somebody reminded her that Woods needed six attempts to win the U.S. Open and that Webb had needed only five. She smiled, licked her right index finger, and made a notch mark in the air. That's how she does her best public speaking: with actions.

Source: Bamberger, Michael. Sports Illustrated (July 31, 2000): G5+.

Between Webb and Sorenstam, fans of women's professional golf have been enjoying an unusual treat: A record-breaking level of golf excellence and a degree of competition that has been absent from the Tiger Woods-dominated men's scene. As Webb entered her eighth full year of touring with the LPGA in 2003 at a still-young 28, her fans would have many more years of phenomenal golf to look forward to.



Happell, Charles. Karrie Webb. Melbourne, Australia: Legend Books, 2002.

Tresidder, Phil. Karrie Webb: The Making of Golf's Tigress. Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia, 2000.


Bamberger, Michael. "Webb Feat." Sports Illustrated (July 31, 2000): G5+.

Callahan, Tom. "Webbmaster: Karrie and Kel." Golf Digest (January 2001): 92.

Diaz, Jaime. "Karrie Webb's Final Frontier." Golf World (July 6, 2001): 48.

. "Unharried Karrie." Sports Illustrated (August 9, 1999): G6.

Fields, Bill. "Mixed Emotions." Golf World (June 29, 2001): 16.

. "Walking the Walk." Golf World (June 8, 2001): 20.

Garrity, John. "Peer Group." Sports Illustrated (May 12, 1997): 68-71.

. "Sixth Sense: Despite a So-so Year, Karrie Webb Had a Feeling She'd Make History at the Final Major of 2002." Sports Illustrated (August 19, 2002): G4+.

. "Somber Slam: Karrie Webb's Concern over a Loved One Took the Joy Out of a Historic Victory." Sports Illustrated (July 2, 2001): 1.

Huggan, John. "Webb Gem." Golf World (August 16, 2002): 14.

Johnson, Sal. "The Week." Sports Illustrated (March 4, 2002): G25+.

"Landing in the Green." People Weekly (April 28, 1997): 68.

Mickey, Lisa D. "Leaving Well Enough Alone." Golf World (September 15, 2000): 9.

Moriarty, Jim. "History for the Taking." Golf World (June 28, 2002): 22.

Rosaforte, Tim. "Sitting Pretty." Golf World (March 10, 2000): 16.

Shipnuck, Alan. "Ayr Power." Sports Illustrated (March 13, 2000): 46+.

Yen, Yi-Wyn. "Trumped." Sports Illustrated (November 26, 2001): G17+.


"Karrie Webb." LPGA.com. http://www.lpga.com/players/playerpage.cfm?player_id=53 (January 17, 2003).

"LPGA Player Bio: Karrie Webb." Golf Web. http://services.golfweb.com/ga/bios/lpga/webb_karrie.html (January 16, 2003).

Sketch by Julia Bauder