3. KARRIE WEBB
By Sam Squiers
Karrie Webb decided she was going to become a professional golfer long before women’s golf was even broadcast on television. Karrie joins host & sports journalist Sam Squiers to discuss learning to play golf in regional Queensland, why she doesn’t share her personal life with media and the how the Karrie Webb Series scholarship is increasing female participation in golf.
Hey, I’m Sports Journalist Sam Squiers, welcome to “On Her Game”.
Karrie Webb has always seemed to me to be this formidable figure in sport, she’s someone I’ve admired, looked up to and been in awe of for so long. It’s mindboggling what she’s achieved in the game. Seven Majors, Forty-One LPGA Tour wins, over Seventy Career wins and entry into the World Golf Hall of Fame. The greatest golfer Australia has ever produced male or female and all of that having come from the very small country town of Ayr in North Queensland. But it was four years ago, that we were both part of a working group looking at how we could boost the number of girls playing golf and it was then that I got to personally know the friendly, approachable, down to earth and passionate Karrie. It’s a passion and a personal mission she has not just for the game but to create a better future in the game for young girls. But after over twenty years of playing golf all over the world, Karrie still loves returning to Australia.
WEBB: I do, there’s no other tournaments in the world where I get, um, home crowd advantage and, and ah full support so, you know. Early on in my career it was probably a little overwhelming for me, I didn’t probably enjoy it as much, but pretty quickly I, I learnt how great it was to come home and play in front of the home crowd and, and on courses that, you know, it’s where I learnt to play golf, on Australian golf courses, so yeah. I try to make sure that’s a priority every year.
SQUIERS: Um, I love as well that you get back to, to Ayr, I love that you’re, you’ve, you’ve eclipsed the global sporting stage and, and reached such incredible heights in your career, yet you come from really humble beginnings back in North Queensland, in Ayr, which is a population of eight thousand, seven hundred and thirty eight (Webb: mmm), according to Wikipedia (laughs). Ah, I find it so fascinating that that’s where you were born and that’s where you grew up, but what was it like growing up in Ayr in the Seventies and Eighties?
WEBB: Um, well thanks for making it the Seventies and Eighties, it’s all good (laughs) perspective(?). (laughs)
SQUIERS: (laughs) I’m an Eighties girl as well, it’s all good.
WEBB: Yeah. I mean obviously didn’t know anything else but, you know, when I look back on it I think, um, it, for me it was a huge advantage growing up in a small town and, and back then, you know, I feel like all of the facilities that we had in, in the town, you know, all of the sporting facilities were of great quality and.
SQUIERS: And you go back there every year, you love going back.
WEBB: Yeah, well I have a place in Townsville now, um, and, um, now that I’m not playing as much, um, I’m spending more time back in Australia and, so I have place in Townsville, which is about an hour north and one sister lives there with her family and then, um, my other sister and my parents and one grandmother still live in Ayr. I’m lucky in a way that all of my family are all close together because in the years when golf was full-time, ah, it was good that I didn’t have to travel all over Australia to catch up with everybody.
SQUIERS: And you mention your grandmother there and she had a part to play in you finding golf, didn’t she?
WEBB: Yes, she did her and my grandfather and my parents, they up took up golf right around when I was born, so they were all, um, very avid golfers. But, um, my grandparents had two businesses they ran, and they worked six days a week and Sunday was their only day off and amazingly they’d come and scoop me up about seven in the morning on Sunday and, and take me out with them for nine holes. You know, I didn’t have real clubs back then, um, just the plastic ones (laughs) and as I got older and stronger, I got really frustrated because obviously the, you know, the head would fly off the club and, you know. So, they, they were ones that promised me for my Eighth birthday that I’d get a real set of clubs.
SQUIERS: That’s cool (Webb: yeah). Did you actually play on the course with the plastic clubs? How did that work?
WEBB: Ah yeah, yeah, no, um, you know, it was a plastic ball, um, yeah I, I didn’t play all nine holes and, and, you know, at four years old I couldn’t walk all nine holes so (laughs), half, half of the, um, nine holes was me riding on my granddad’s pull cart on the back of it (laughs). So, he was pulling his clubs and me along.
SQUIERS: (laughs) Oh my gosh (Webb: yeah), my gosh, fit bloke. And then, by the time, did you say you were eight? They promised you.
WEBB: Yeah, eight was when I got a, yeah, a real set of clubs.
SQUIERS: That’s very, very, cool (Webb: yeah) and was it love at first sight for you and golf, did you just love it? Or was just hanging out with the grandparents?
WEBB: Yeah I think it was and, and my parents, I, I think, um, Ayr Golf Club at that time was quite a young golf club, so a lot of people, my parents’ age (Squiers: mmm) were members and so it was a very social thing for my parents. So, they’d, they’d play on a Saturday afternoon and my grandparents who worked (laughs), you know, six days looked after us in the afternoon and then they’d drop us out there, you know, in the afternoon after mum and dad had finished and they’d be up in the, in the Clubhouse having a drink. And, you know, there was a bunch of kids, um, my age so we’d just hang out downstairs and run amuck and, but just have a really good time. So, you know, we’d play Red, Red Rover between two bunkers, you know, so (laughs), we’d, you know, safe was diving into the bunker and (laughs), you know, (Squiers: that’s cool, that’s awesome) so it was ah, yeah, it was just a really great atmosphere and I, and it’s a place that I wanted to be at.
SQUIERS: Did you look up to any other female golfers, how did you know that golfing was something you wanted to do?
WEBB: I think golf or men’s golf was televised, you know, the Australian Summer was televised a lot more, they had I bigger schedule, um (Squiers: mmm), so, you know, I, I was, you know, just grew up watching that, that’s how I knew that there was such a thing as a Professional Golfer. And my coach Kelvin Haller, because we didn’t have a Pro, he was like the, um, Club Champion, the Head Green Superintendent and, um (Squiers: mmm), out there and a really good friend of my parents’ so, he was the best player in the Club, so I always thought he was a Pro. I remember asking mum ‘is Kelvin a Pro?’ (laughs). She’s like ‘no, he’s not’.
But, you know, I, I think professional golf just always intrigued me and, um, I didn’t, I didn’t really have any female role models because golf, female golf was, um, not visible at all (Squiers: mmm). Um, but I started playing Junior Golf when I was eight, so ’83 maybe (Squiers: mmm), um, and the first time I ever saw live women’s golf on TV was in 1990 and, and I’d already told my parents years before that, that I wanted to be a Professional Golfer (Squiers: wow). So, um, you know, I got the, the monthly golf magazines and, um, you know, there was little bits in there, actually one of them I wrote a letter to the Editor and asked for, for more female content (laughs), um, and (Squiers: awesome) they’ve actually reprinted that a couple of times.
SQUIERS: Your letter? (Webb: yeah), that’s awesome (Webb: yeah, ah), did you get a response straight away from them or did?
WEBB: I never, I never got a response just that they put it in the magazine.
SQUIERS: Yeah, and how old were you at that time?
WEBB: Oh, maybe, thirteen or fourteen.
SQUIERS: That’s cool.
WEBB: Yeah, so, you know, that was my only, you know, it’s not like now you can, you know, you can go onto the Internet and look up anything you want, um, (Squiers: mmm) and, and have your role models because they’re right there in front of you (Squiers: mmm), the golf magazines were my only content that kept me up-to-date.
SQUIERS: I love that you’re an advocate for, ah, for women’s sport and a champion for women’s sport from right back then as well.
WEBB: Yeah right? (laughs)
SQUIERS: So, what was it? Ah, was it, Greg Norman was a big hero of, of yours was that a turning point when you?
WEBB: Yeah, I was, yeah, I, I mean those teen years was when he was Number One in the World and he’d won his first British Open. Well not even teen, pre-teen, when I was, um, eleven, for my twelfth birthday, my birthday’s really close to Christmas, um, because I was born close to Christmas, my mum never wanted me to get just one present. But my, for this birthday my mum made an exception because my grandparents, um, Greg Norman was coming back in Australia to play in the Queensland Open at Coolangatta, Tweed (Squiers: mmm) on the Gold Coast and my mum’s sister, my aunt lives down there. So, um, for my birthday / Christmas present that year, my grandparents flew me down there to go to the Queensland Open and, and watch Greg Norman live, so that was my first, um, professional event that I went to and, and that was the event that I came back and said to my mum and dad ‘I want to be a Professional Golfer, Golfer when I grow up’.
SQUIERS: Wow, what kind of training were you doing? You knew from eleven that you wanted to be a Professional Golfer, so how serious did you take it?
WEBB: Yeah, I, I was still doing tons of other stuff though, you know, played all different sports with my Primary School (Squiers: mmm). Ah, I was playing, um, indoor cricket, I couldn’t play proper cricket because that was a boy’s sport (Squiers: mmm), but I played indoor cricket, one of my, well my best friend at Primary School parents’ had, had an indoor cricket centre so, (Squiers: cool) so um, yeah so that was during (Squiers: that was fun?). Yeah and ah, and then, and I also, um, had guitar lessons and I actually tap danced for seven years.
SQUIERS: Karrie Webb tap dancing, really? (laughs)
WEBB: Yeah, yep (Squiers: wow). I think, I think it was to, it was probably more to make people around me comfortable that I wasn’t just a tomboy, I could be a little girl as well (Squiers: wow), so (laughs).
SQUIERS: Seven years did you say?
WEBB: Yeah, Grade One to Grade Seven.
SQUIERS: Wow (Webb: yeah), so you were quite you were good then?
WEBB: But I didn’t do any like contests or anything like that, I didn’t, I, I just, that didn’t appeal, I didn’t like how the teacher became like, you know, crazy when we had to prepare for something, so I didn’t do any of that stuff. I mean we did end of year concerts but that was, but that was it.
SQUIERS: Oh my gosh, to get those videos now Karrie, so we could see it. (laughs)
WEBB: I mean the pictures are bad enough, I’m glad we don’t have videos.
SQUIERS: Do you still if you’ve got heavy shoes on, let’s there a loud floor or a wooden floor, do you still feel that need to just kind of do, I don’t know, a shuffleboard change or something on there?
WEBB: (laughs), Yeah, sometimes. Although, um, there’s so many people in my life that want to see me do it, um, I refuse so, you, you could give me a million drinks and I still won’t do it (Squiers: and you still won’t do it) (laughs), so, yeah.
SQUIERS: I’ll give that a go (laughs), um, you mentioned before about your coach Kelvin Haller, you had a really special relationship with him, which was from a really early age, can you tell me a little bit more about that?
WEBB: His parents owned the newsagents, ah, next door to my grandparents, um, shops, so, um, my mum and him grew up together, um, and he was the Club Champion and, and also, um, the Green Superintendent at, at the Club. So, mum just said, ‘listen, she, she seems to really like this, you know, if you see her out there can you just keep an eye on her and make sure she’s doing the right things?’. And, so, it was a very informal relationship to start with and Kelvin was out there every day, like he’d, he’d finish work and then he’d play golf (Squiers: mmm) and I’d caddy for him, you know, in the Club Championships and stuff like that. Um, and then it sort of, you know, as I got better I think he got more, um, keen to coach me and, um, I think even at a young age I, I thought of Kelvin as, as a second dad (Squiers: mmm) because I spent tons of time with him. (Squiers: yeah)
Um, and then ah, when, when I was sixteen, um, he, um, walked into hospital and didn’t walk out (Squiers: oh man) and has been a quadriplegic since, actually it’s going to be thirty years this year (Squiers: wow), yeah. He was away a ton, Townsville didn’t have a spinal unit so Kelvin and his wife Vivian had to live in Brisbane for I think it was three or four months (Squiers: mmm), just to rehabilitate him enough to come home and, um, ever since he moved back home, um, we just went back to him coaching me. Um, (Squiers: wow) and we had such a great relationship before and had worked together for so long that, you know, he was able to communicate to me what, what needed to happen rather than, um, put his hands on me or, or show me how to do it.
SQUIERS: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s really special isn’t it like (Webb: yeah) it wouldn’t happen with any coach being able to verbally, especially with golf, explain (Webb: mmm, yeah), what he wanted to do, but is, is that just a sign of your relationship with him, that you were able to communicate in a really different way?
WEBB: Yeah, I think so, I mean it didn’t come without its fights, you know? (laughs) We would get frustrated with one another at times but we, we did have a very, well we still do have a very, um, special relationship and he was my only coach through the best part of my career (Squiers: mmm). And that was when I was spending probably only two weeks, maybe three weeks a year in North Queensland (Squiers: mmm), you know, so I was getting in-person lessons, you know, two weeks a year.
SQUIERS: Wow, because you did go over to the U.S.?
WEBB: And then, no, he couldn’t travel that far (Squiers: so, how did he?), he didn’t, he did travel to, when we played, um, on the Gold Coast at Royal Pines for the Australian Women’s (Squiers: mmm) Ladies Masters. He’d come down for that (Squiers: yeah), but even that was starting to get too much for (Squiers: yeah), you know, for him but also his wife and the stuff they had to travel with for him. So, it was the start of the Internet and (Squiers: yeah), um, and email and all of that, um, which makes me sound really old but (laughs). Um, the way we were able to stay on top of things with my swing was I’d go to the golf course, video my swing, you know, set up a tripod, put it, you know, camera and then go home, connect to dial up Internet (laughs), download, download the swings on the computer and then email them to him (Squiers: yeah) and then, then by the time he saw them and we talked, you know, and the time changed it was like two days before I got a solution to the problem (Squiers: wow). So (laughs), you know, it, it meant how that’s how we did it, um, (Squiers: yeah) and I thought that was amazing that we could do like that way (Squiers: yeah). And now and now you can have a live Facetime lesson, you know (Squiers: yeah) and get feedback straight away, so, yeah, it’s definitely changed a lot.
SQUIERS: Yeah, but you didn’t want it any other way, you didn’t want another coach?
WEBB: Well, things were going so great (Squiers: mmm) I didn’t, I didn’t see the need to it, it, it did make it challenging at times but, um, even when, um, in 2003, Kelvin and I had started to make swing changes and before that we hadn’t really done that (Squiers: mmm). So, we’d just worked on what was there (Squiers: mmm), so when I started making changes it, that was really hard to do by myself, um, for most of the year.
And, so, Ian Triggs, who I’d (Squiers: mmm), I’d known since I was fourteen, um, he was coaching Rachel Hetherington at the time (Squiers: mmm) and so he offered to help us out. And, you know, there’s not a lot of coaches that were, would have been willing to say that, you know, they were coach, they were my coach, but I could also say that Kelvin was my coach (Squiers: mmm, yeah, yeah). And, you know, I never wanted Kelvin not to be in the picture (Squiers: yep) and Triggsy knew that (Squiers: yeah).
And, and so, yeah, so I worked with Triggsy for ten years and, you know, he’d, he’d come up to Ayr sometimes and, and with, the three of us would work together and figure things out (Squiers: yeah, yeah). Um, that was a pre-requisite to that, you know, when I would go back to, when I would go back to Ayr I’m going to work with Kelvin and (Squiers: yeah, yeah), and he’s going to be a part of this and he was fine with that too. So, I’ve been very lucky to, lucky to have two guys that put their ego aside just to, to help me (Squiers: yeah) and, and, and to also understood the relationship I had with Kelvin.
SQUIERS: Now when you were a teenager, a big turning point for you in your career was when you did win that Greg Norman Scholarship (Webb: mmm), which included going over to the U.S. and spending a week with Greg Norman. Tell me more about this opportunity.
WEBB: Ah it was amazing, yeah, so I landed in West Palm Beach really late at, at night and his brother-in-law picked me up and took me back to his house in, you know, in complete darkness and put me up in one of his guesthouse, houses. (laughs)
SQUIERS: How old were you?
WEBB: Ah, seventeen.
SQUIERS: One of his guesthouses. (laughs)
WEBB: Yeah, um, and then I went to sleep and then the next day there’s a knock on the door, and I go to the door in my pyjamas and, and Greg Norman’s standing there (laughs). So, um, so that was very surreal but it, it was such a great week, he was, um, very giving and, um, we played golf with him and, um, he also had to, um, he was a touring professional for a golf course in, um, Orlando. So, he took us up there and so, um, he took us to Universal Studios and, um, we had VIP, so we didn’t have to wait in line and, ah, so got in the best seats in every ride (laughs). So, that ruined me for those parks (laughs), because a couple of years later when I was back there, living there, and I had to line up I was like ‘this sucks’ (laughs).
SQUIERS: But I know Greg Norman, do you remember me, I was here a couple of years ago, yeah? (Laughs) (Webb: yeah), wow so what other things did you have to do with him because I, because the whole idea is for him to, to show you what, what he does and his preparation is that, is that right?
WEBB: Yeah so he wasn’t playing a tournament but (Squiers: mmm), um, you know, he, he made us get up with him and work out, which he worked out at like five thirty in the morning (Squiers: wow) and yeah, um, we only did that once I think (laughs) (Squiers: okay). Um, but, ah, you know, he had, um, you know, back in the day when you worked on your own clubs he had his own little, um, you know, setup there where he’d work and fix his clubs and, and, you know (Squiers: mmm), change the lies and the lofts and all of that. So, that was the first morning we were there, and we were sitting in there and, um, and he had all the clubs that he had ever played with on racks (Squiers: wow).
Yeah, and he was just talking to us about our golf and what we thought we’d want to do and then he said ‘oh, there might be something through that door that you might be interested in’. And we opened the door and it was where he kept all his Ferraris (Squiers: oh wow) (laughs). So, I walk in there and there’s like seven or eight Ferraris on the, on blocks and so it was just, you know, for me that was like, I don’t, I don’t think I’m ever going to own eight Ferraris but (laughs), you know, it was like the ultimate of (Squiers: yeah), reaching the pinnacle of, of golf (Squiers: yeah) and I think that inspired me to, to want to try and do that, um, (Squiers: mmm) on the women’s side.
SQUIERS: And how did that visit and that trip, how did that change things for you as a golfer?
WEBB: Well one, um, you know, you, you dream about being a Professional Golfer and you know eventually that’s going to lead to playing in the States and, you know, we were in Florida for a week and that, I mean that really feels a lot like Queensland except the population’s larger (Squiers: mmm) but, you know, I didn’t really see that it was, it was any different to living in Australia. So, I think even just that week was ‘oh yeah, I can, I can live over here’. (laughs) You know, it’s not that big a deal, but ah yeah it just sort of, I think it gave a visual to the dreams that I had, you know, like this is where I want to be eventually (Squiers: yeah), I don’t know when that’s going to be but that’s, that’s the goal. I want, you know, I want to have, you know, have a house in Florida and, you know, like just all that stuff that (Squiers: eight Ferraris) like that’s what. (laughs) Yeah, eight Ferraris.
SQUIERS: You say Florida was a lot like Queensland because I just find it fascinating how this girl from Ayr, population eight thousand, you’re from an early age was then living over in Florida and the U.S. Like what was the, was that just an, you say it’s a lot like Queensland, was it a big shock, I, I, I could imagine that being a big shock (Webb: yeah) for a country girl and then go, live over there, was it?
WEBB: Yeah I mean I look at it now, so, um, I played a year on, on the European Tour (Squiers: mmm), um, in ’95, that was my first year and then I went to the States. So, I had a year abroad (Squiers: mmm). I just, I don’t know, I, I mean I look at it now and go ‘how did I just?’ (laughs) I just went over there and took everything in my stride (Squiers: wow). Like there was nothing, I don’t have any memories of that time of ever being (Squiers: overwhelmed?) like overwhelmed. I, well, well overwhelmed by, um, well, I played really, at the start of my career, I’m going to buy a house, you know, buy a house (laughs) in Orlando and, you know, like I’ve been over there for two minutes and got a house in Orlando and bought a car and all I can think of is it was, you know, I, I’d dreamt about it and I’d already put myself there (Squiers: yeah, right).
So, I, I, it didn’t, it didn’t overwhelm me at all, which as you get older you, you know, because I said to my mum ‘I was over there by myself’ (Squiers: mmm), you know, and she’s like ‘I know, we worried about you, but you didn’t seem, you didn’t seem like it worried you’ (laughs) and I was like ‘I don’t think it did’, yeah.
SQUIERS: Yeah because in 1995 you were just twenty when you won your first British Open, which wasn’t a designated Major back then, you then went onto LPGA Tour, just your second tournament and finished the year with four wins. Your first Major in 1999 and then six of seven Majors came in just three years. What was it about Karrie Webb which made her so dominant in those years?
WEBB: Hmm, um, I, I mean it didn’t come easy it was a lot of hard work and there were, there were bumps in the road but not on the golf course. I think the golf course was always, um, my safe place (Squiers: mmm). You know, I, I could, if I went there and it didn’t matter what was going on outside I could shut everything out and, um, and again I just think I was so, I, I had such a single mind of golf from such a young age that, that I just did it. I mean I can’t tell you know how I did it because even a couple of years after that dominant period when I, you know, and things weren’t that bad, but I just wasn’t, I wasn’t winning as much as I was and, (Squiers: mmm) or, or playing as consistently well as, as I was. And so, you know, I’m trying to figure out how to get back to that place and (Squiers: mmm) and people are like ’you’ve had all these amazing, you know, wins and experiences, just draw upon, from them’.
But I, I never had any, I didn’t have a, um, you know, a system or the way I went about things (Squiers: mmm), I just did it, you know, I just, you know, hit the ball, found it, hit it again, you know. And I mean I make it sound really simple in that I, there wasn’t a lot of brain function going on (laughs) but I really did understand the game and I understood how to score and I did feel nerves but I think, you know, mostly I, you know, once I felt those nerves I knew I was in contention, so, you know, I just lived, lived for that feeling and when I, you know, when I wasn’t winning I, I wasn’t happy.
SQUIERS: Because you were pretty tough on yourself, weren’t you back then?
WEBB: Yeah, yeah, I was, now reflecting you think ‘I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself, but I would I have been as good?’
WEBB: So, you know, it’s hard to, you know, I don’t have regrets on how hard I was on myself because I knew it made me the person I was. It, it made me tough and it made me a tough competitor (Squiers: mmm), people, people knew when they saw my name on the leader board I wasn’t going anywhere (Squiers: mmm), that they were going have to play well to beat me.
SQUIERS: Yep and you still had that tough mentality for so long. (Webb: yeah) and you’re still playing the game (Webb: yeah) (laughs). Have you changed now the way you play? Are you not so tough on yourself now or is that just ingrained in you to be just like mentally competitive?
WEBB: Um, I’m definitely not as tough as, as I was and I’ve only been playing part-time the last couple of years and (Squiers: mmm) and the reason for that really is, is to get a bit of love back in the game, um.
SQUIERS: Did you lose the love?
WEBB: Yeah, I did, um, but I think it was, you know, I’ve been really fortunate with my body I’ve, I’ve never had any time off for injury, I’ve never actually had an injury of any substance ever (Squiers: mmm) and, but, but with that there was no downtime (Squiers: mmm). You know, golf’s all year round and I played a full schedule and up until, um, the end of 2017 so, you know, I’d been going at it for over twenty years and asking one-hundred and ten percent of myself (Squiers: mmm). Um, you know, for that time and I just got burnt out.
I wasn’t playing well and, you know, and then back when I first started, you know, my mum said, ‘oh my’, you know, ‘she, Karrie’s sacrificed so much when she was young’ but I don’t actually ever see what I did as a sacrifice (Squiers: mmm) I wanted to do that. You know (Squiers: mmm), you know it didn’t bother me that I missed a friend’s wedding or (Squiers: mmm), or someone’s birthday, ah, you know, I choose golf over that all the time (Squiers: mmm). Um, but as I got older and, you know, and possibly (laughs) if, if the results were still as good you, you’d be enjoying it more obviously (Squiers: mmm) but because it wasn’t up to the standard I wanted then I felt like I was, I was missing out on life (Squiers: mmm). And, so, then the part-time golf has been to really, you know, it’s actually been really great because, um, when I am out there playing I’m like ‘I really’ like, you know (laughs), ‘this has been an awesome life’, you know, and I do like to play golf and I like to compete.
SQUIERS: When were those years when you suffered burnout, what, what years are we talking here?
WEBB: Ah ’16, ’17 (2017), but ‘17 was when I realised, I was.
SQUIERS: That’s a long time into your career, isn’t it?
WEBB: Yeah, yeah (Squiers: right), I mean there was probably other points during that time (Squiers: mmm) but I just pushed through it, um, but at ’17 and, at the end of ’17 I could have just walked away and not played anymore, um (Squiers: yeah). But I also was old enough to have a perspective that, that’s golf, has been so great to me that I shouldn’t, I should never leave the game feeling the way I do about it, because I didn’t, I didn’t want to feel the way I did (Squiers: yeah). So, the part-time golf although I would have liked to have played better it’s still a just, it’s changed my perspective on, on everything which is good.
SQUIERS: And that was from 2018 that you did it?
WEBB: Yeah, so, the last two seasons, yep.
SQUIERS: Yep, when you were twenty-five you qualified for the World Hall of Fame for Golf (Webb: yep). You were inducted when you were thirty or thirty-one when that happened?
WEBB: Um, yeah, I was just short of my thirty-first birthday.
SQUIERS: That’s a huge moment isn’t it, for the girl (Webb: yes), for the girl from Ayr? (Webb: yeah) How big a moment was that?
WEBB: Well I don’t think you ever set out to, um, you don’t set a goal to ever be in a Hall of Fame I don’t think, um (Squiers: from thirty you’re qualifying, well twenty-five). Yeah, well qualifying at twenty-five (Squiers: yeah), so I knew I was going to be inducted once I’d played ten years (Squiers: yeah). Um, and, so, and the criteria’s changed now actually, um, we have to be forty-five or five years retired.
So, while I mean it, it did give me pause to reflect. I was still too young to, I mean if I was being inducted now it would be much more reflective for me (Squiers: yeah) and, um, and more full-circle sort of thing (Squiers: yeah, yeah). Rather than I was still in the middle of my career and, you know, I was getting inducted on the year, that the first year that I hadn’t won on the LPGA (Squiers: right). So, you know, I was still like that bratty, like push yourself, like disappointed in how I’d played and now I’m getting inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame (Squiers: yeah, yeah).
Like I also was old enough to, to understand the moment and, and I totally enjoyed it when, you know, there was, I, all my family were over (Squiers: mmm). You know, we had the World Golf Hall of Fame and Induction as well as the LPGA Hall of Fame Induction so we, we had two great parties and (laughs). Um, you know, I really, really did, and I and it really did give me pause and time to reflect over those ten years (Squiers: mmm), ten / eleven years, but then it was on, it was on for the next, you know, to the next thing, you know, how are we going to get better next year (Squiers: yeah, yeah), you know, so, um, I think it’s.
SQUIERS: Would you have preferred to be inducted later?
WEBB: I, well I, yes and no (Squiers: yeah), I mean I wouldn’t have changed how it happened but, um, you know, now I, I wouldn’t have a choice now, I would’ve, I would’ve had to wait. So (Squiers: mmm), and I think that’s good because you’re older and more mature to, you know, um, to understand what you’ve done and appreciate it more, I think.
SQUIERS: Yeah, I’ve heard you say a lot that you’re a very private person and I tried to find a biography on you, and I noticed that there were two books that were written about you within two years, but a really, really long time ago. I thought there’s so much that’s happened since those early 2000s, were you happy with the way that you were presented in those books and why were there two books so close together?
WEBB: I don’t know why there were two books so close together, um, one of them, Phil Chester wrote and, um, he was a journo and actually a, a really tough journo. He, ah, he was really hard on Greg Norman so all he’s (laughs), ah, watched was set around him (Squiers: mmm) but he ended up being one of my biggest fans. So, the book he wrote I, I knew about and I participated in and my family participated in, um, so, you know, I approved that and (sighs). You know, I’d, I’d already had I guess my bumps in the road with, with media and I guess being criticised for how I was on the golf course. I didn’t smile enough (Squiers: mmm), um, you know, I didn’t give media tons of access, um, especially into my personal space but, you know, I just wanted to talk about golf.
If you’re going to talk to me about it (Squiers: mmm), you know, I grew up watching Greg Norman everything time he stepped foot in Australia they’d find some reason to give him a hard time, so I think I was already on edge about that. Um, and, and then by the time these books were written, you know, I was definitely going into my shell and, um, the second book that you’re talking about, um, I was tricked into participating into that book.
Ah, Charlie Happell was working for The Age, I don’t know if he still does but, um, through my management he had said that he was doing, um, different interviews with different sports personalities for the Sunday sporting section. Um, and so, my, um, manager at IMG encouraged me to do it, they thought it would be really good and, you know, I, you know, I was like ‘alright, I’ll do that’. Um, and then we set out the time for the interview and then when the interview time came, ah, Charles told me it wasn’t going to be in the paper anymore, he was writing a series of books on different sporting people (Squiers: mmm), so he was already there, we were already going to interview, so I was like whatever (Squiers: mmm).
So, I did the interview, um, and he, he came to asking me about my personal life and, um, early in my career I’d, um, broken up with, ah, my fiancé who had it in for me briefly at the start of my career and, you know, that made Woman’s Day and New Idea (Squiers: mmm) and all of that and, and I, at that time I was like ‘I don’t want to be in those magazines’ (Squiers: mmm). Advice from a lot of my friends on the Tour was, you know, ‘you don’t have to share that side of yourself if you don’t want to’ (Squiers: right, yeah).
So, you know, I’d sort of, up until that point was, it had been respected and, and my personal life, um, was asked about that day (Squiers: mmm) and I said, ‘I didn’t want to speak about it’. Um, and then he went off and did his own investigating and, um, I, when the book came out obviously, I didn’t even know a book was coming out (Squiers: mmm) and the one excerpt from the book that came out was the investigating he had done. It unfolded that I was dating a player on Tour, which was true (Squiers: yeah). But it went to every newspaper in the country and, you know, I’m sure he felt good about himself about, you know, getting the attention for his book but for me, um, I was still learning, or learning who I was as a person (Squiers: mmm). Um, so, not many people in my life knew that I was dating a woman, um, my sisters did but, um, my parents didn’t so, you know, he took that away from me.
SQUIERS: That’s awful.
WEBB: (tearing up), Yeah, so, you know, that’s why you probably can’t, can’t find anything else if you understand because I just, you know, I pick and choose what I do, um, in the media.
SQUIERS: Oh Karrie, that breaks my heart. Because we’re talking about the early 2000s (Webb: yeah). So, how was that sporting and that. social landscape for gay women back then, how was it different to how it is now?
WEBB: I just think in general with society it’s different, it’s young kids it’s just, you know, it’s just ‘oh you’re a gay, that’s great, okay, good we can be friends, I’m straight, whatever’ (Squiers: mmm). You know (laughs), like it’s not (Squiers: yeah), it’s just so fluid now (Squiers: it comes up) it’s just so comfortable, yeah, it’s not an issue, you know, it still was back then for sure. Um, but, um, you know, I just think it’s amazing that, how society has changed. I think it’s, you know, still a long way to go but, you know, you can definitely feel comfortable with who you are and not feel like it, um, in any ways, that like in this instance (Squiers: mmm). You know, that I wasn’t keeping a secret (Squiers: mmm) I was just figuring myself out, you know, before I let other people in my life know about it.
SQUIERS: And to have it so public as well.
WEBB: This guy, yeah, this guy felt like he, you know, got some scoop and, you know, whatever I hope he felt good about it.
SQUIERS: I can’t imagine what that would be like, taking that news away from you and making it so public.
WEBB: Yeah and I was in the States when it came out, so I couldn’t even talk to my parents in person, so I had to talk to them on the phone.
SQUIERS: How, how did they react?
WEBB: Um, I mean my, my dad probably wasn’t ready to hear that news at the time, um, but my mum was and, and my dad’s great now (Squiers: mmm), but my, my mum was great right from the beginning.
SQUIERS: Yeah, did it take you a long time to, to come to peace with what happened and how it happened?
WEBB: Yeah I mean it’s, it’s, you know, I feel like everything that happens in your life shapes you one way or the other and for me I think maybe things wouldn’t have been any different in my life, I might have been still very, very private and, and.
SQUIERS: That’s understandable with that, if something like that happens (Webb: yeah), you go into your shell.
SQUIERS: One hundred percent. (Webb: yeah), I mean not your shell, but you do not trust the media afterwards.
WEBB: I get emotional about, yeah, yeah, I think so. I mean have a much better relationship with the media now, but I, I think to because I am just completely comfortable with who I am as a person and, um, you know, happy in my life (Squiers: mmm). So, it’s, you know. I don’t get written about as much, so it doesn’t really, you know, I don’t get worked up about any of that stuff anymore (Squiers: mmm).
SQUIERS: I’ll move onto, I want to talk about, because we’ve talked about the Greg Norman scholarship that, that you won and that opportunity to go over to the U.S. and stay with him for a week. Um, that was really the basis for you being so motivated and inspiring you to create the Karrie Webb Series and the Karrie Webb Scholarship, is that right? Can you tell me about, about what you do there?
WEBB: Yeah, yeah, yeah so, um, that week with, um, Greg was, was very impactful for me (Squiers: mmm), um, and, you know, not many people have someone that’s their idol that they look up to that you ever get the chance to meet them, let alone, you know, live in their house and, and spend time with them and their family (Squiers: mmm). So, for years I’d actually wanted to do something like that, um, and ah when the A, AGU and the ALGU merged and became Golf Australia was when actually things started to work on, on that front. And I had, I had talked to the ALGU for many years and it just, you know, their idea of what was, what they wanted was not even close to what I wanted (Squiers: mmm).
But, um, ah anyway we worked it out and the Karrie Webb Series started and (Squiers: mmm) in 2007 and it’s a Series of events that the, the leading female players, amateur players in the country play in. And they, um, get awarded points for their performances and the Top Two girls, ah, get, um, monetary scholarship, ah, to pay for travel to different tournaments or, or equipment or what have you.
But, for me the coolest part of the Series has, has always been that, um, they come, um, to the U.S., for a week, most of the years it was at the U.S. Open. Um, we rented it a house, we rented, we rented a house (Squiers: mmm) and the girls stay in the house with me and, you know, pretty much see everything that I do for the week. The last few years we’ve, we’ve had it at, um, the, ah, Women’s PGA Championships (Squiers: mmm). But, ah, when we first started my, my agent was like ‘are you sure you want to do it at the U.S. Open?’ and I was like ‘I’m not sure, I don’t, you know, I mean those events are very big’ (Squiers: mmm).
And, you know, I’m, I’m a little more stressed than normal and, um, but I, but I was older but, but 2008 was the first year they came over (Squiers: yeah), um, the Series went the End of ’07 through the Beginning of ’08. And I wasn’t sure if, if it was for me to have them at the U.S. Open (Squiers: mmm) but I was like ‘it’s the biggest event we play, and this is what I want them to aspire to play in’ (Squiers: mmm). Um, and so they came over they, you know, walked inside the ropes during practise rounds, and got to meet other players and, um, it was just the greatest, like if I (laughs), the, that first year was everything that I could have hoped for as far as the girls asking tons of questions (Squiers: mmm), and being super excited to be there (Squiers: mmm), how I guess I felt I would have looked like when I was staying at, at Greg’s place all those years ago, so (laughs).
SQUIERS: So, you put own preparations back then initially to inspiring those, those young girls and those, those Juniors through.
WEBB: Yeah, but it actually, I don’t think I did though, I think it actually rejuvenated me a little bit that week (Squiers: mmm). Like, you know, it’s not like you actually get sick of playing an U.S. Open but, um, instead of it being like a full-on grind you had a bit of a, a release at the end of the day (Squiers: mmm). Because the girls that asked, you know, all these different questions that you didn’t even think about.
SQUIERS: And you can see that look in their eyes?
WEBB: Yeah, you could see that they were really learning (Squiers: mmm) and, and excited and it’s been fantastic. I don’t know if we can be, if we can beat last year though um, (laughs) (Squiers: yeah). I had a, we had a, we had a bigger house than normal last year, so I invited, um, Hannah Green and Su Oh (Squiers: mmm) to stay in the house with us and they’re, they’re past scholarship winners (Squiers: mmm). And, and we had Becky Kay and Grace Kim who are the current, the current scholarship winners in the house (Squiers: yep, yep).
And so, and so, ah, Stacey Peters, um, who’s one of the first, yeah one of the first winners who now, ah, works in High Performance for Golf Australia, so she was over as well (laughs). So, we were all in the house, um, and ah, you know, at the end of the week Hannah, Hannah won and, ah, you just can’t, you can’t top that (Squiers: yeah), um. You know, that the girls got to, got to witness, you know, someone, Hannah’s only a few years older than them, so they’ve actually played with her (Squiers: mmm), um, win a Major and win her first tournament and it was a Major, it was um, amazing.
SQUIERS: An Aussie as well.
WEBB: Yeah, I don’t, I don’t know if I was the best mentor, um, that night (laughs), I did, I just (Squiers: after she won?) (laughs). Yeah, I did teach them, I did teach them how to celebrate (laughs), so, I celebrated in life.
SQUIERS: Yes, important things in life Karrie.
WEBB: Yeah, I celebrated like, I celebrated like I’d won, so. (laughs)
SQUIERS: Did it feel somewhat like you’d won? I remember just listening to your press conferences afterwards and you were just like, like a proud parent or a proud relative.
WEBB: Yeah, yeah maybe just say sister (Squiers: sister) (laughs), I don’t know, I could be her parent, but I try not to think that. (laughs)
SQUIERS: I did, I did read a quote like ‘I do feel like her mum or her sister’ or like. (laughs)
WEBB: Yeah, well I woke up the next day, thinking about that and was like (laughs) ‘when I was twenty-two how old was my mum? And she was my age forty-four’ and I was like ‘don’t go there’.
SQUIERS: Wow, oh no. (laughs)
WEBB: Oh no, does she think like that, like? (laughs)
SQUIERS: No, no the big sister, the big sister (Webb: yeah, yeah). Um, it’s been an incredible alumna for the Karrie Webb Series hasn’t it?
WEBB: Yeah, it has, yep (Squiers: you talk about) and it, yeah for me it’s been a, I guess I’ve, I now appreciate what my parents have gone through all these years watching live scoring (laughs). Because all my favourites are all, ah, you know, Karrie Webb Series winners and, and, um, so it’s a long list (Squiers: yeah), and, you know, I’m watching live scoring and I’m like ‘oh no she made a bogey’ (laughs), you know, so.
SQUIERS: Do you understand the influence you’ve had on those girls’ careers, with that alumnae that, that you’ve had. You say Su Oh and Hannah Green, um, Stacey Peters.
WEBB: Min Jee Lee.
SQUIERS: Ming Jee Lee, of course, Julia Boland (Webb: yep) as well who’s now the ALGPA President, um (Webb: yep) and actually Julia’s a friend of mine and she’s says ‘there’s no way she would have been a Professional Golfer if not for the fact that she’d won and spent that week over with you’ in the U.S..
WEBB: Yeah, yeah, yeah actually I, I would agree because, um, Julia came with Stacey Keating, Stacey Peters (Squiers: mmm) and Stacey was like a golf nerd (laughs), she knew everything about everything and, and Julia said to me one night and I’ll never forget it because she’s like ‘I don’t know if I, if I should even think about being a Professional Golfer because I don’t know any of its history’ (Squiers: mmm) and I’m like ‘that doesn’t stop you from, you know, wanting to be a Professional Golfer, you don’t have to know all this stuff’ (Squiers: mmm).
I said, ‘you’ll eventually learn’, I said ‘when I came over here I didn’t, you know, I knew very little, but you learn, you learn very quickly’ (Squiers: yeah). Um, and you learn who to appreciate and thank for everything they’ve done as past players (Squiers: mmm). But yeah, I remember that conversation (Squiers; yeah) and then Julia went on to go to College in the States and then turn Pro (Squiers: yeah), so that’s really cool.
SQUIERS: And now leading, um, ALPGA in Australia (Webb: yeah) which is fantastic. How do you feel about the number of girls who are playing golf in Australia now?
WEBB: Yeah, I’d definitely like to see the depth and, and more participation for sure. I, I think I noticed it probably three or four years ago, um, just in the depth of the, the, the elite amateurs coming through that, that, you know, there just wasn’t that depth thereof, of great talent (Squiers: mmm). And, um, you know, that filters down to the fact that, you know, there isn’t tons of girls, um, staying in golf. You know, a lot of them start but it’s, it’s keeping them in the sport (Squiers: mmm), you know, through those teen years, um.
SQUIERS: Where are we going wrong with the girls in sport, not just the girls in sport, I just want to know specifically golf, where are we going wrong?
WEBB: Yeah, I think golf, um, culture wise (Squiers: mmm), you know, clubs have to change (Squiers: mmm). Ah, you heard me talk about Ayr golf club (Squiers: mmm) and kids playing Red, Red Rover in the bunkers (Squiers: yeah). Like I didn’t grow up in the typical golf culture.
SQUIERS: Which is, strict rules, which is dress code.
WEBB: Yeah tuck your shirt, you take your hat off (Squiers: yeah), you know, and it’s still tuck your shirt in, take your hat off, you know, (Squiers: mmm) a lot of that hasn’t changed, um.
SQUIERS: Did you say even recently or a couple of years ago, you were at one of the golf courses in Victoria, where you’re an ambassador and someone asked you? Can you take us through that?
WEBB: (laughs) Yeah, yeah I popped into the clubhouse really quick to get, um, a bottle of water to take out on the course and I didn’t take my hat off and, you know, and part of that is because I’ve lived in the U.S. so long and people wear hats inside all the time (Squiers: mmm). So, I just don’t take my hat off and I had literally been in the clubhouse for thirty seconds and someone came up and told me to take my hat off. (laughs)
SQUIERS: (laughs) Karrie Webb, ambassador for our golf course, greatest golfer Australia has ever produced.
WEBB: Yeah, yeah, I looked at the guy behind the bar and said, ‘you wonder why young people don’t play golf anymore’, you know.
SQUIERS: Yeah, yeah.
WEBB: You know, and I think those sorts of rules need to, to bend (Squiers: mmm). I get that, you know, some of the things you really love about golf are also some of the things that have to change, and I think we have to be okay with that (Squiers: yeah). Um, if you want the game to survive, um.
SQUIERS: And it’s expensive as well they, like it’s an expensive sport, once you’ve got the club fees and (Webb: yeah it is) the equipment and let alone to have (Webb: yeah), to get the golf specific clothes as well.
WEBB: Yeah exactly, I think some of the problems with clubs to is you, you think maybe it’s just the men, but I think some of the women are just as much to blame for discouraging young girls to play (Squiers: mmm). Ah, and even women, you know, women taking up the game in thirties and forties, they get so cliquey out at these clubs (Squiers: mmm), they should be welcoming these women in and they make them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome (Squiers: mmm) and, um, and that mentality has to change for, for the game to grow.
SQUIERS: But I always find it interesting because I’m a very confident, outgoing person but when I go to the golf course, I feel anxious or nervous or intimidated and I think ‘far out, if I’m feeling intimidated in this environment (Webb: yeah) I can’t imagine what it’s like for a junior girl to walk up and want to get involved in the game’.
WEBB: Yeah and I’m, ah, I, I do think there’s a shift and there’s a change happening but I, I think it’s going to take some time for, for that mentality to, to shift in clubs. Um, you know, (Squiers: mmm) and as long as the people running the clubs are the ones that have been there for, for years and years it will be, it will be hard to shift it but I think that, I think it will. And I think there’s other avenues with golf now, you know, driving ranges and, and Top Golf (Squiers: mmm) and public courses, that really there isn’t that sort of feeling around those (Squiers: no). You don’t have to be members of those other clubs immediately, you know, it’s something that happens perhaps later.
SQUIERS: And you also mentioned Ayr not having, being a country golf course, for a long time there a lot of the, the elite Australian women’s players, came from country kind of areas as well, and golf courses.
WEBB: Yeah, yeah, yeah, well I think, I think, um, because we had access to, ah, the golf course whenever I wanted (Squiers: mmm). You know, I was out there, especially in high school I was out there every afternoon after school, ah before school. My high school backed onto the golf course so, um, you know, I’d stop in there on the way to school and then after school and, um. But even as a young child like there wasn’t a day really that I was allowed to be out there, you know, maybe Saturday day competition. You know, I couldn’t be on the golf course (Squiers: mmm), but I could be on the practice facilities, so I, I never experienced that, um, at all (Squiers: mmm) until, I mean we used to play, um, Stage/Stroke Player Championships.
I remember playing the NSW Stroke Play Championship, um, one year and, you know, it’s a seventy-two hole event, which is four days (Squiers: mmm), um, but it took us five days to play because we played Monday, Tuesday, we had to have Wednesday off because that was the men’s day (Squiers: mmm) and then played Thursday, Friday (Squiers: mmm, yeah). But to have access to those great courses that’s, that’s what we had to do (Squiers: yeah, yeah). But yeah, so, growing up in a country town, um, I, you know, I think that’s why I loved, I loved it, there was no restrictions (Squiers: yeah). You know, as long as you tucked your shirt in and didn’t wear your hat in, in the clubhouse (laughs), um, you know, we were all good.
SQUIERS: I think we could do away from those rules (laughs) and we’d get more juniors in, um, you talked about cutting back your schedule, do you plan to cut back even more and Karrie, do I dare bring up the R word?
WEBB: (laughs), Nah, I don’t know if you ever really retire from golf but (laughs), um, I’m old enough to play the, ah, Legends Tour now.
SQUIERS: (laughs) How does that feel?
WEBB: Um, I have to got to get my feel, I’ve got to get my head around that yet.
SQUIERS: It’s Legends, it’s, it’s a nice way of saying.
WEBB: Yes, old, old, Old Ducks Tour.
SQUIERS: (laughs) No, I was going for veterans, but you can go there.
WEBB: (laughs) Yeah it’s, um, it’s something that I can play in, I, ah, um, and I think I will, I don’t know if I’ll do it this year but, um, (Squiers: mmm) um, I think I will eventually and I don’t know how much golf I want to play this year. I played the Vic Open and the Australian Open in February (Squiers: yeah), um, and I don’t actually have a tournament schedule (Squiers: mmm) as of now.
I think I’ll always want to compete but I, I also, I just can’t get my head around just being there to make up the numbers, you know (Squiers: mmm). The thing is if I, if I wanted to play full-time right now I’d still be competitive and I know that (Squiers: mmm), so, you know, I think I’m always, you know, I’m always going to have a day where I’m going to practise and go ‘ah, I can still do this, let’s go out and play’ (Squiers: yeah). But the reality and, and I could go out and play an one-off tournament and win it or, or have a chance to win it but the chances of that with the, the little amount of, I mean it’s the playing part it’s not the practising part, it’s the playing part (Squiers: mmm) and being under that pressure. If you do that more regularly you know, it just, it just comes naturally when you’re in those situations (Squiers: mmm).
So, it, I mean it could happen but the chances of it aren’t great (Squiers: mmm) and I know that and I don’t know if I just want to be one of the numbers out there and I don’t, I don’t want to be congratulated for making a cut, you know, (Squiers: mmm), that’s not, that’s not who I am and that’s not the standard of golf that I have held myself at (Squiers: mmm). So, um, I’d have to really change that mentality to just wanting to be out there I think (Squiers: mmm) and I don’t, and I don’t know if that’s going to change but seriously when I do play I love every second of walking through, you know, through the gates of the first tee and getting ready to go (Squiers: mmm). Like I’ll never, I’ll never tire of that (Squiers: yeah), you know.
So, it’s great that, you know, health wise my body is still, um, trucking along and I’m still fairly well injury free and, and, you know, I can play the Old Ducks Tour so (laughs). So, once I (Squiers: Legends, Legends), once I admit I’m, I’m, I’m old enough to do that (laughs) then, um, they might see me out there.
SQUIERS: We, ah, finish off every podcast by asking our guests what advice they would give their ten-year-old self. So, what would you tell little Karrie Webb, who’s just worked out that she wants to be a Professional Golfer?
WEBB: Um, I, yeah, I, I would tell myself to, to slow down and to really enjoy it, um, to really appreciate playing a sport for a living, even though you think you’re enjoying it, really, really enjoy it and appreciate it while (Squiers: mmm), while you’re in the moment and, and, and not, not wait to reflect on it later.
SQUIERS: Karrie it’s been awesome to have you on ‘On Her Game’. Thank you so much.
WEBB: Thanks Sam, thanks for having me on.
SQUIERS: On her game is presented by me, Sam Squiers and produced in collaboration with Podcast One Australia, Producer Lindsey WEBB, Audio Producer Darcy Thompson, Executive Producer, Jennifer Goggin. For more episodes, head to podcastoneaustralia.com.au download the free Podcast One Australia app or search on On Her Game podcasts.
Transcribed by Nadine Maraldo www.gossipcom.com