Karrie Webb must have sworn she was watching a replay of the 2001 US Women’s Open. 

As 26-year-old Minjee Lee was smashing drives and records on her way to a commanding four-shot victory at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club Monday (AEST), seven-time Major champion Webb needed a moment to pull herself together.

“I got a little choked up,” Webb confesses to Australian Golf Digest

“This win is so huge for Minjee and Australian golf in general. I guess the relevance of myself having won there in 2001, and how she got to walk down the 18th fairway just like I did, knowing she was going to win, made it so much more special to watch.”

The synergies between Minjee’s second Major title and her idol’s equally historic Pine Needles performance 21 years ago were uncanny. Both came at the same course, obviously. Both were achieved at 26 years of age. And both produced landslide performances to leave the golf world in awe.

“The confidence she is going to take from this week is the most exciting part, for me,” Webb says. “Minjee will now have the belief to take on the Jin Young Kos and Nelly Kordas for that No.1 mantle. She is going to believe she truly has what it takes to be the game’s dominant player and that’s a frightening scenario for her competition, given the way she is swinging it. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure if she really had that feeling before this performance.” 

There was one noticeable difference between Lee and Webb’s US Open whitewashes, however: the cheques they banked for their respective efforts. Lee took home a staggering $US1.8 million ($2.5m) for her victory – a record for the sport. Karrie cashed a cheque for $520,000.

“Oh my God! It took me a whole year to make $1.8m – and one of my best years too,” laughs Webb, who occupies second place on the LPGA Tour’s career moneylist with $20,276,503. 

“In fact, I think I only won $1.8m or more in an entire season a couple of times – and I had to win five times to do that.”

Not that Webb begrudges the enormous and long overdue growth in riches on offer to the sport’s talent-laden women’s circuit. Quite the contrary.

“I remember when my good friend Meg Mallon won the 1991 US Women’s Open and she became the first woman to ever win $100,000 in a week. Ten years later at Pine Needles, she stayed with me and watched me take home $500,000. It’s just the evolution of the sport and it’s really amazing how the USGA have stepped up with their prize purses this year. It’s really set the new standard for the other Majors to follow and hopefully reach those same levels.”

As for 10th spot winning more than $200k this week?

“Ha! I think I only won about five tournaments in my career that were worth more than 10th spot this week. It’s so good for the sport.”

With celebrations in full swing, Webb did have some timely advice for her star student as she embarks on catching Webb’s own Australian record of seven Major titles: don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

“I scheduled my career around the Majors and Minjee definitely has that luxury now,” Webb says. “But I think there’s a danger in just concentrating on the Majors. You can put too much emphasis on those big events when it’s so incredibly important to play well in the lead-up events. 

Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee of Australia walk to the fourth green during round one of the International Crown. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

“Confidence going into the Majors is just as important as the swing fundamentals and all that other stuff. You can subconsciously place too much emphasis on Majors because they’re prestigious, and your careers are so often defined by them, especially the men. But you’ve got to manage your schedule so the events you play in the lead-up are going to give you those feelings of performing well and feeling confident.”

Whether Lee can catch her idol only time will tell. But one thing is certain – Webb will be watching on and backing her every step of the way.

“I have enjoyed being there for all of the Australian players, not just the ones that have won my scholarship,” Webb says. “I follow all their careers and I now know what it must have felt like to be my parents.

“Every week I’m trying to keep track of 12 different players all plying their trade across the globe. I’m always looking up leaderboards and texting them words of encouragement where I can. I guess if I’ve played a small part in just helping them all believe this kind of success that Minjee is enjoying now is even possible, then it’s super, super rewarding.”