Karrie Webb considers playing more LPGA events with eye on advancing women’s game

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 15: Karrie Webb of Australia reacts to missing a putt during day one of the ISPS Handa Australian Women's Open at Kooyonga Golf Club on February 15, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images) Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Karrie Webb considers playing more LPGA events with eye on advancing women’s game

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Karrie Webb considers playing more LPGA events with eye on advancing women’s game

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ORLANDO – Karrie Webb isn’t making any promises. She’s still in a play-it-by-ear kind of mode. But last year the 44-year-old Hall of Famer rekindled her love of competing on the LPGA, which admittedly had been absent for a number of years.

“I could’ve been completely done playing,” she said, “but then I would’ve left on a sour note.”

Instead, she’s committed to eight to 10 events in 2019, maybe more if she qualifies for additional late-season starts. Webb still has the game to compete on the LPGA. She tied for second at the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open in 2017. But her presence on tour carries weight that travels far deeper than scores.

“We need more people like her,” said Stacy Lewis. “I wish people would play longer just because you start to get a different perspective on things.”

For years Webb, a winner of 41 LPGA titles, has been a go-to voice for peers and journalists alike. At last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, her final event of 2018, Webb indicated that even in her 40s, she’s still finding her voice as an athlete. On a tour that’s largely dominated by youth, Webb’s perspective on meaningful issues stands out.

“The longer I’ve been out here and the older I’ve gotten,” said Webb from Royal Lytham, “you know, when you see other female athletes standing up for their rights, it starts to make you think about how much we’ve just said, ‘Oh that’s just the way it is in golf.’ And maybe we shouldn’t be like that anymore.”

At last week’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Webb spent time at booth 711, catching up with old friends and meeting new faces in her role as an ambassador for Nippon Shafts. She’s been associated with the Japanese brand since 2006. Incredibly, Nippon is Webb’s only remaining sponsor since she began competing part-time.

“What’s great about Nippon is they don’t look at me as a woman or a man,” she said, “but as a Hall of Famer, and they want to be associated with someone that’s been the best at the game.”

Webb begins her 24th LPGA season at the ISPS Handa Vic Open on Feb. 7-10, a tournament that features male and female professionals competing on the same course for equal purses of $1.1 million. The forward-thinking event is jointly sanctioned by the European Tour and ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia (men’s) and the LPGA and ALPG (women’s).

While Webb, Laura Davies, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel are among the event’s headliners, only five players in the top 50 of the Rolex Rankings have committed to play. Because the event was added to the LPGA schedule in late November, Webb believes some top-tier players might not have had enough time to think about what the Vic Open represents on a larger scale. It also doesn’t help that it’s the start of four consecutive events overseas. Even so, Webb hopes more players begin to see the bigger picture in coming years.

“Because we really should support an event that’s offering equal prize money,” she said, “when we’re wanting to close the gap at the very least. I don’t think any of us have any preconceived notions that we will play for the same amount of money (as male pros) – someday maybe – but think just closing the gap is our goal for the short time.”

Fellow Aussie Sarah Jane Smith marvels at Webb’s “incredible mind” for golf.

“As much as she’s still playing and competing,” said Smith, “she’s also very much investing her time in making sure the future of the game is looked after.”

Lewis has made a habit of playing U.S. Women’s Open practice rounds alongside Webb because she appreciates how the seven-time major winner prepares. Even on the range Webb is different than most, shaping shots and fine-tuning a game that boasts both distance and finesse.

“It’s just not what the kids do now,” said Lewis. “They just beat it.”

Webb is toying with the idea of trying to qualify for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. The two-time Women’s Open winner hasn’t taken part in a qualifier of any kind since the 1995 LPGA Q-School. Fellow Hall of Famer Beth Daniel has been urging her good friend to sign up as this year’s Women’s Open is being held at Daniel’s home course, Country Club of Charleston.

Webb is eligible for the remaining four majors and plans to compete in each after skipping the ANA Inspiration last year for the first time in 23 years.

“I don’t want to be a ceremonial golfer and just be out there,” said Webb of continuing to compete part-time. “If I play quite well, it’s something I might consider doing for a number of years.” Gwk

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