World Golf Hall of Fame Profile: Karrie Webb
In a career marked by one accomplishment after another, Karrie Webb's greatest achievement arguably is qualifying for the World Golf Hall of Fame by age 25. "It took me forever to get in," said Juli Inkster. "I feel like the turtle and Karrie is the hare."
"It's hard to fathom," added Beth Daniel. "When the LPGA changed the qualifying criteria [in 1999], they made it so the players who dominated their era would be recognized and Karrie's been dominant."
Webb succeeded without a learning curve. She was young, confident, and fearless. In 1995, at age 20, she won the Weetabix Women's British Open before she became a member of the LPGA Tour. Her legend grew when she defied a broken wrist to earn her LPGA Tour card. Then in just her second tournament as a LPGA member, she won the HealthSouth Inaugural. "She was a name you heard about before she became a force on Tour," said two-time U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon, "and she didn't disappoint."
Webb grew up in the small town of Ayr in Queensland and still maintains a residence there. She started playing golf at the age of 8, and earned her first golf trophy in her first-ever golf tournament. "It was the first time I ever played 18 holes," she remembered. "It was over two days and I shot 150 and then 135, and I won the Encouragement Award." Little did she know that she had finished in last place. "I didn't find that out until I got a little older."
Webb got all the encouragement she needed from her coach, Kelvin Haller, a quadriplegic, unable to use his hands or legs, the result of a workplace accident some 15 years ago. "I knew she was good," he said, "but I didn't really have any idea. None of us did. It's a small town. When Karrie played in that first British Open, and--bang!--she won it, I guess we all started to catch on."
Haller still lives and coaches in Ayr and, because he has some slight movement in his right arm, he is able to communicate with Webb via the Internet. Webb frequently e-mails Haller a video of her current swing. He then analyzes it on his computer against her previous swings and, if he thinks she needs any instruction, will either telephone or e-mail her. Once a year, when Webb returns to Ayr at Christmas, they get a chance to work together in person.
And what a swing it is. Webb's a throwback to another era, able to maneuver the ball, and hit high-arcing long irons that land soft and spin, usually on the green. "She's one of the best ballstrikers ever to come out on our Tour," said Mallon. "I love watching her play golf because she's the complete package."
Webb has become Australia's most successful female player. She dominated the LPGA Tour in 1999 and 2000, winning the Player of the Year award in consecutive years. She played like she expected to win every time she teed it up and she nearly did. She won six times and finished in the top-10 22 times in 1999 and captured seven more titles the following year. "For those two years," Inkster said, "when she was in the field, everyone felt like they were playing for second place."
In 2001, Webb won two more majors. She was the only player to finish under par at the U.S. Women's Open, successfully defending her title and earning enough points for the Hall of Fame. With her two-stroke victory at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, Webb became one of six women (joining fellow Hall of Fame members Inkster, Pat Bradley, Mickey Wright, Louise Suggs and Annika Sorenstam) to achieve the LPGA Career Grand Slam, as well as the youngest ever. In 2002, she won the Weetabix Women's British Open (now designated a major) for her sixth major championship victory and became the first player in LPGA history to achieve the "Super Slam," which is winning all five majors available in her career.
At 31, Karrie Webb's career already can be summed up as super and her star is still rising.