November 14, 2005
ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Thank you, everybody, for coming today. I'm pleased to introduce Karrie Webb. This is a very important day in Australian history. She has become the first female inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. There are now a total of four Australians, Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and Walter Travis. We appreciate you spending a couple minutes here and wanted to give these people an opportunity to ask you some questions on the big day. Talk a little bit about how you feel.
KARRIE WEBB: Just very nervous obviously. I've done many press conferences but not one that is probably this special. It's been a fun time. My family have been over for a few days, and just looking forward to tonight and enjoying myself, even though I'm extremely nervous about my speech a little later.
Q. Do you want to practice it right now?
KARRIE WEBB: No, that's all right. Once will be enough (smiling).
Q. Can we tell stories today?
KARRIE WEBB: Sure, you can tell a story if you want.
Q. I want you to tell a story because the details are fuzzy and it's a good time to tell us. I wonder if you could review for us in detail the tournament you won as a kid in which you came over to Greg Norman's place and just what you remember about that whole experience and what type of inspiration that was, if any.
KARRIE WEBB: It was in 1991. I was 16 at the time, hadn't quite turned 17 yet. Greg has a junior golf foundation in my home state of Queensland, and it only had just been up and running I think just that one year, and they have a season-ending tournament, which now is one of the biggest junior tournaments in Australia. But that year was the first -- '91 was the first year of it, and all the kids playing in it knew that the overall boys' and girls' champion, as well as winning the tournament, was going to win a week the following year to spend at Greg's place in South Florida. Obviously we got to meet Greg that week; he was there for the tournament. Long story short, I guess I won the tournament. I got to meet Ian Baker-Finch at the presentations; he was there for the presentations. And then the following year, in September of '92, was the first time I traveled over to the United States, traveled over by myself as a 17 year old, and spent a week in Hope Sound in South Florida there at Greg's place. I grew up looking up to Greg, and I just feel like there's many people in life that have inspirational people in their life that they never actually meet, people that they look up to. Obviously at 17 I didn't know that golf was going to take me to this seat where I'm sitting today. I felt like this was just a dream come true, to be able to meet Greg and to be able to live in his life, I guess, for a week. Greg didn't give me tons of advice verbally; it was just watching him. He carried himself, and the success that he had had in his career and still was a very down-to-earth person and had a very down-to-earth family, and the fact that he opened his house and family up to two strange teenagers from Australia, it just was a great learning experience for me.
Q. Do you remember who the boy was?
KARRIE WEBB: Marcus Caine.
Q. On a day like this obviously you'll probably reflect on a lot of your experiences. Do one or two stand out maybe? That might be one of them, but are there a couple others?
KARRIE WEBB: It's really hard, you know, when I'm writing my speech to reflect on something that is a standout to me because I think every win that I've had is special. I'm giving away my speech here (laughter). I don't want to bore you later. I'm always going to remember my first win at the British Open. Obviously my first win down in Australia is always special for me, the Australian Masters. I feel like the six majors I've won are six highlights of my career, so it's really hard for me to single them out. But the U.S. Open, the two U.S. Opens I've won, I hold very high because I think that that's our biggest tournament we play every year. The golf course usually asks the most out of your golf game, and generally more often than not, the winner that week is someone who is going to have an outstanding career or already has.
Q. How about from your early childhood when you first took the game up? Your grandmother got you started?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, grandparents and parents.
Q. You were, what, four, five?
KARRIE WEBB: I should just say my speech. That would answer all your questions.
Q. I'm curious about that, and how you did get interested and how you realized maybe that there was a future?
KARRIE WEBB: Are you guys really going to be here tonight? Because you don't have to hear my speech. When I was four years old, I used to go out on Sunday mornings with my grandparents, and I used to have -- at four I just had plastic clubs. For my eighth birthday they decided to -- well, they told me for my eighth birthday they were going to give me a real set of clubs. So on my eighth birthday they gave me a real set of clubs, a cut-down set, and my mom and dad had a bag and buggy for me. That was probably a highlight birthday present throughout my life.
Q. What was that feeling like? I have to phrase this properly; you were the quickest to get the Grand Slam; from one to four I guess is what I'm trying to say. I don't remember off the top of my head what you did, but I think it was probably five and eight, five majors, something like that, that one stretch from DuMaurier through the Open. What was that feeling like? Did you feel as close to unbeatable there as can be?
KARRIE WEBB: Now if I look at it, yeah (laughing). I think at the time I just was riding such a wave of confidence. You know, when I look at that time in my career, it just was -- I couldn't do anything wrong. Even if I didn't feel great about my game, I somehow found a way to get it in the hole. I think I was very confident in my ability to do that. After I won my first major at the DuMaurier in '99, it wasn't -- I won't say it wasn't hard, but I felt just like every major I entered, I knew I had a very, very good chance of winning on Sunday.
Q. Was the McDonald's the hardest one?
KARRIE WEBB: Yes, just because I had a very love-hate relationship with DuPont Country Club. Well, obviously it was by far the best I've ever played in 2001, and I just had a great month in 2001. I won the U.S. Open early in that month at Pine Needles, and then at the end of that month I won the LPGA Championship. So I think having played that well helped me at DuPont because I really struggled around there, and I think where I'm at now, I have a much better chance of winning that tournament again.
Q. And that was a hard Sunday for other reasons?
KARRIE WEBB: Yes.
Q. You almost didn't play that Sunday, right?
KARRIE WEBB: Yeah, I almost withdrew. My parents were over, and my grandfather had a stroke, my mom's father, and they traveled back that Sunday so they didn't get to watch me play, and then I traveled back the next day.
Q. How many of the majors did your mom see? She was at DuMaurier?
KARRIE WEBB: She was at DuMaurier. That's the only one that either my mom or dad have seen.
Q. Where were you when you found out or when you got to your number to get into the Hall of Fame, and how did you feel about that?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, I think it's, I guess, a little different to some of the other inductees who are voted in. Obviously with the LPGA criteria points-wise, I achieved the points part of the criteria at the 2000 U.S. Open at the Merit Club. I guess it's hard to say that -- I knew myself personally that I was two points short, and if I was to win the U.S. Open that I'd also qualify for the Hall of Fame. But it was my first U.S. Open win, too, so it's sort of a shared experience. This year at the McDonald's LPGA Championship in Maryland was when I fulfilled the ten-year requirement. I mean, it's a tremendous feeling. Obviously I knew going in -- it's not like I won that week to go in. But in the same breath, completing that first round of that tournament, I was probably more nervous than I've been all year on the 1st tee, just because it's something that I never dreamed that I would achieve and that I just had to play one more round of golf to achieve it. It was very special.
Q. Have you decided what you're going to make as some of your contributed items on permanent display?
KARRIE WEBB: Everything that's in there now is permanent, and now that I've seen some of the other displays, I'll probably dig in my closets for some more stuff.
Q. What does it mean to be the first Australian female to get in?
KARRIE WEBB: I think it's a great honor. Obviously there's been a lot of great Australian women play the game, I think Jan Stephenson obviously stands out among the best to have come from Australia, and she really, I guess, pioneered -- she was the most successful Australian to come over here I think at a time where it was more daunting to travel to the United States than maybe it was when I came over. But it just means a lot. I guess I don't necessarily class it just as being the first Australian female, but just coming from where I came from in Australia and being Australian, to achieve it I think is something special because the United States is always a place that is where you go to be the best at anything that you try your hand at.
Q. Do you feel 30?
KARRIE WEBB: (Laughing) should I feel older or younger? I don't understand the question (laughter).
Q. Does it feel odd at all to be age 30 going into the Hall of Fame?
KARRIE WEBB: Yes, it does. I was at the dinner last night, and all Hall-of-Famers that are here for the induction tonight were recognized last night, and I was just, like, "What am I doing here?" I still don't really feel like I should be among these great players. I think that will always take a long time to sink in for me. But obviously I'm still enjoying and soaking up every minute of this occasion.
Q. Can you share any anecdotes about how some of the current members have welcomed you kind of into the club?
KARRIE WEBB: Fairly similar, just a hug or -- mainly a lot of hugs and kisses and just congratulations, very deserved, and just want me to enjoy myself and not be so nervous about my speech tonight.
Q. When did you start writing it?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, it's funny because I had planned to be so organized so that come this time of the year, I would have had my speech written for a long time and it would be so well-rehearsed. So I woke up -- I was at the World Cup this year at the beginning of February in South Africa. I woke up about 2:00 in the morning and I was thinking about my speech, and I had some ideas, so I wrote them down. So in some of my nights that I was going through to write my speech, there's a little piece of paper from the hotel with Fancourt on it. Well, I started writing my speech about three weeks ago (laughter) because every week I'd be, like, "I need to start writing my speech, I'm going to start it this week, need to start it this week," and sure enough, I started the main part of it a couple of days before Hurricane Wilma, and during Hurricane Wilma when I didn't have to tend to my house, I was writing my speech. It was good that I didn't have electricity for a couple days because I could no longer procrastinate and watch television; I had nothing to do, so I wrote my speech. And then I had a trip to Japan, so that helped, too.
Q. A lot of air in the speech? Is that what you're getting at, a lot of hot air?
KARRIE WEBB: No, it's very to the point.
Q. At different times in your development in golf, especially when you were young, can you recall the things that you loved about golf that enabled you to continue on to the next step or the next discipline or the next sacrifice that you had to make to go as far as you did? Can you remember those?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, I can remember why I wanted to start playing golf. Obviously I grew up in a very small town, and we just had one golf course in our town. It was the Ayr Golf Club. My parents and grandparents both took up the game just after I was born, so they were avid golfers at the time. My mom and dad would play one day a weekend, so it was either Saturday or Sunday, whatever day they chose to play, that day my grandparents would babysit us, and then at about 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon my grandparents would take us out to the golf course and dump us off there, and there was probably 20 or 30 kids that their grandparents did exactly the same thing in the afternoon. So we would just run riot downstairs around the practice putting green and the 18th green, running in and out of the bunkers and stuff like that. Our parents were upstairs enjoying a couple drinks after their round of golf. It was just a great atmosphere for me, and the fact that my family played, I just wanted to -- I'm the oldest of three, so I always think the oldest just wants to do whatever their parents do. That was why I took up the game, why I just felt the love for the game. Then, I don't know, along the way, I just got better, just moved up a level every year. Golf is a great game because you can have your own personal goals without having to worry about what anyone else is doing, and obviously with the handicapping system and stuff like that, your goal each year is to get down to a certain handicap. I don't know, I know once I started high school when I was 13, our high school is from grade 8 to 12, my high school backs up to the golf course, so that's when I really started practicing pretty much every day after school. I didn't do a lot of other activities that took away from practicing playing golf.
Q. How about later, 15, 16?
KARRIE WEBB: I got through high school. I had a very good principal who allowed me to have time off school and play a lot of amateur golf in grade 11 and grade 12. I made my first Australian team when I was in grade 12. When I finished high school, if I would have really looked into it, I guess I could have tried to come over here and go to college, but I'd had enough of trying to squeeze golf and school in, so I decided just to play a couple of years -- well, I don't know how many years, but I was going to play amateur golf in Australia. I had a very successful couple of years once I finished high school, and I worked part-time both those years and just practiced and played as much golf as I could. So I was almost 20 when I turned pro. My last tournament was the World Amateur in '94 in Versailles just outside of Paris. I just progressively moved up the ranks every year, and I had such a successful year in '94 as an amateur in Australia, I felt my only choice was to play amateur golf overseas or turn pro, and no one was going to give me money to play golf as a pro, let alone to go over and play amateur golf. So I decided that I'd turn pro, and it just went from there.
Q. And the love, is it still there?
KARRIE WEBB: Oh, yeah, yeah. I think sometimes it's a love-hate, but it's more of a love.
Q. Outside of your family, is there someone you can pinpoint as being the most influential in your career?
KARRIE WEBB: Probably my lifelong coach Calvin Haller. He started coaching me when I was eight. We didn't have a club professional at our club at the time, so mom and dad -- Calvin and his wife Vivian were good friends with my parents, and Calvin was a good amateur at the club. So they asked him to just keep on eye on me, and that's sort of how it started for the first few years. It was pretty informal, and he would just -- every time he saw me, he would just give me a tip or two, and then realized as the years went on how serious I was and how I loved to practice and wanted to learn. So it sort of just went from there.
Q. Is this his first trip to the States?
KARRIE WEBB: He didn't make it. It just was going to be too much for him.
Q. How do you spell his last name?
KARRIE WEBB: H-a-l-l-e-r.
Q. Do they get The Golf Channel over there?
KARRIE WEBB: I'm not sure. I think The Golf Channel talked to some of the stations in Australia, I'm just not sure if they're picking it up.
Q. I was curious, too, we forget about your year on the Futures Tour. Did you spend just a summer or was it a whole year?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, in '95 was the first year for European Q-school, and it was held in March of '95. I went over to European Q-school, and then the European Tour didn't start until the end of May. So from the end of May until the end of May, I played five tournaments on the Futures Tour. That's the extent of my Futures career. But that was my first taste of the U.S., and in that time -- in the five events, I also went and watched the Sprint Title Holders at LPGA International, so that was the first time I really got to watch any of the LPGA players play or even see them for the first time, and I went to practice rounds at the U.S. Masters.
Q. How did you get those? Those are hard tickets.
KARRIE WEBB: I don't know how I got them.
Q. You weren't on the street, were you?
KARRIE WEBB: No, I was with IMG at the time. Maybe that's how I got them, I can't remember. But we did go that year.
Q. And then you won the Title Holders the next year?
KARRIE WEBB: I did.
Q. I know you had a fabulous rookie year in '96. Obviously you had success golf-wise. What was that like being in the spotlight coming from a small town in Australia? And the second question is what advice would you give to these young guns that are coming out, just outside of golf, what to watch out for?
KARRIE WEBB: I think '96 was a great learning year for me. Obviously as far as on the golf course, I let my golf game take care of business. But off the golf course it was a very overwhelming year for me. I did not have very good time management with all the off-course interviews and stuff like that, and I also -- I think overall I'm a pretty shy person. I think my career has forced me to not be so shy, but I think in '96 I was still that shy kid from North Queensland. I just didn't know how to be. I never had any media training or anything like that, so I didn't know -- I felt like if I was being myself, no one understood my sarcastic sense of humor. It took a few years for that to kick in. I just didn't know how to handle it. I think a lot of people forgot that I was only 21. I guess now that you look at 21, some of these kids have been on Tour for two or three years now. But for me it was just a tough few years. I've never wanted to draw attention to myself, but my golf game has done that for me. Obviously I can handle that situation a lot better now than I could then. But I shied away from it more than I accepted it for the first few years. But I look at these young kids now, and I think a few of them have had a lot more access to the media training. See, for me, I just came out and played golf and that's all I knew. I didn't know the other side to it, and I don't think you ever prepare yourself for that because you don't know if you're going to have that sort of success. A lot of these young kids now come through with the media training, and they seem to take it in stride. I think it's great because it's almost like they're mentally prepared for that attention, and it doesn't seem to phase them at all. But my advice to them is just to be themselves. I think for the most part, for the last 10 or 11 years, that's what I've tried to maintain is just being myself and not be anything anyone else wants me to be, I've just tried to be myself, and that's probably my best advice that I can give the young players.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, for spending a few minutes with us. We'll see you tonight.
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