All eyes are on Hannah Green this month as she attempts to bring her Major-winning mojo to Royal Adelaide in search of a first national open. But if you think the growing expectation is weighing her down in her fairytale bid, think again.
Hannah Green didn’t hesitate … not that she ever has.
When asked if the responsibility of flying the flag for Australian women’s golf was starting to weigh her down since her Major triumph in last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, she killed any speculation there and then.
“No way! I am a proud Australian and I love competing on the world stage,” Green said with a grin from ear to ear. “I love that we have many players flying the flag all around the world, not just in America.”
Only the third Australian woman to win a Major behind the legendary duo of Karrie Webb and Jan Stephenson, and with two LPGA Tour titles already to her name by the tender age of 23, Australia is understandably excited to see what 2020 has in store for the Perth prodigy. Just don’t expect to see a different shade of Green on the fairways. It’s not in her nature to allow success to get to her head, as rapid as her ascent to golf’s top echelon has been. In fact, her goals remain the same – stay humble, and keep doing what she is doing with the support of her team.
But, like it was for her idol Webb, if winning a Major championship was career changing, winning her national open would most definitely be career defining.
“I have always said winning my national open would be just like winning a Major,” Green says. “Playing at home is always a different type of pressure but I love it.”
Green is the type of young woman you would hope your daughter would evolve into; well-mannered, obliging, engaging, friendly and a quiet yet fierce competitive spirit within. She’s always holding junior clinics when she’s back home at her native Mount Lawley Golf Club. She always finds time to chat to club members, seemingly oblivious to her newfound fame. She has been touted as “the next Karrie” for some time but shakes that pressure tag off with a trademark smile, almost embarrassed to be mentioned in the same breath as her hero. Ironically, though, it has been Webb doing all the stargazing over the past 12 months, admitting she was honoured to be in Green’s presence during her Major breakthrough at the iconic Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota.
“Hannah is a shining example of where great work ethic can take you,” Webb writes in her column on page 18 of this issue. “I was lucky enough to get to watch her in person at the 2019 KPMG PGA Championship when she won wire-to-wire. It’s been an honour to mentor her over the years, although I probably wasn’t the best mentor later that night when I was making drinks out of her trophy.”
Karrie could be excused for being a little overzealous. It was, after all, a moment the entire country wanted to drink in.
Can the celebrations kick off again at Royal Adelaide on February 16? Green is as good a chance as anyone in what will be another star-studded field thanks to its co-sanctioning with the LPGA Tour. Her best result in her four previous starts was an impressive third-place finish in 2018 at Kooyonga. But Green admits this year’s edition comes with some added spice.
“I have played four Australian Opens and had some great results in the past but never really had the limelight, so to speak, so things will definitely be different this time. But I am excited,” she says. “I love competing at home and hope one day I can lift the trophy. Winning a Major has changed my life a bit, but I’m very hungry to keep competing and winning and to get the best out of myself, and I don’t need any extra motivation at an event like a home Open.”
“Winning a Major has changed my life a bit, but I’m very hungry to keep competing and winning and to get the best out of myself.”
To achieve her dream, Green will have to beat some of the hottest players on the planet, including defending champion Nelly Korda and Australia’s highest ranked player, Minjee Lee. Korda, 21, repeated the feat of her elder sister Jessica by winning the Open at The Grange in February last year, and has continued to climb the world rankings.
Lee, who like Green came through the elite programs of Golf Western Australia and the Karrie Webb Scholarship Squad, has won five times on the LPGA Tour but is yet to triumph in an ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and similarly carries a deep desire to secure the Patricia Bridges Bowl.
The South Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, David Ridgway, said the Women’s Australian Open was producing world-class fields and breathtaking golf, as well as complementing the growing list of big sports events in the state over summer.
“To have Hannah back home for the first time as a Major champion is going to be something very special both for Hannah and for the fans at Royal Adelaide,” Ridgway said.
“Then to see the brilliant Minjee Lee also trying to win her home Open and Nelly Korda back in Adelaide where she was so spectacular last year, only reinforces the quality of field that is assembled year after year.”
Tickets are on sale through Ticketek and remain some of the best value in sport at just $25 ($19 concession) each day, or $75 ($57 concession) for a four-day pass when pre-booked. Children under 16 are free.
Name: Hannah Green
Born: December 20, 1996
Career highlights: First Australian woman to win a Major since Karrie Webb in 2006 and just the third overall behind Webb and Jan Stephenson; two-time LPGA Tour winner; 2019 Australian Women’s Health Sport Awards Outstanding Woman in Sport
Quick 18 with Hannah Green
(1) AGD: You had a tremendous 2019 season. How do you feel you have changed, both as a golfer and as a person?
Green: I would be lying if I didn’t say things have changed. But I hope to stay humble and do everything the same in the future. I have a great team around me and to now see the results prove that I’m doing things right is great.
(2) What was the highlight of your year on tour. Stupid question, right?
I’d be crazy if I didn’t say winning the KPMG PGA Championship. My first win on tour… and it being a Major championship makes it hard to top. Having Jarryd (boyfriend Jarryd Felton), Karrie [Webb], Su [Oh], Becky [Kay] and Grace [Choi] there during the week was just a dream come true.
(3) Have your goals and aspirations altered since becoming a Major champion?
They have definitely changed. Talking with my team we have always thought that I would slowly make my way to having success. So for the rest of my career I will have to adjust some goals to keep myself on track.
(4) The ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open is looming. How does this year’s host course Royal Adelaide suit your game?
I love Royal Adelaide. It’s one of my favourite courses in Australia and last time I played there I had a good result so I’m looking forward to getting back there.
(5) Does your game feel as comfortable in Australia in front of home crowds as it does overseas?
I think it does. As of late I’ve had some of my best performances on the LPGA playing at home. I feel more pressure but also some added relief because they are cheering for us Aussies the most.
(6) Do you feel pressure to win your national title?
There’s no doubt coming into this year’s Australian Open will be the most pressure I would ever have felt leading into a tournament, but I’m really excited and ready to embrace those expectations.
(7) How do you handle being labelled as a the next Karrie Webb?
Its’ a great honour. Karrie is one of my idols and to have the opportunity to be someone else’s idol is really cool! Like all of us on tour, we want to inspire the next generation of girls coming through as well as give them the best playing opportunities we can.
(8) Describe what Karrie Webb really means to you.
Karrie is definitely a role model to me. She’s also is like a big sister. She is someone that has had a big influence on my career.
(9) Any favourite Karrie stories?
It would have to be staying with her at the KPMG PGA Championship. Staying with her and all the other Aussies that week, not to mention being able to celebrate Sunday night with her – she was pouring all the drinks – was something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
(10) How much do you rely on the other Aussie LPGA players on tour for support?
I did a few things differently last year compared to the previous two seasons. One of those things was travelling with fellow Aussie player Su Oh. It has been great for both of us as we don’t travel with family or coaches. We actually both have similar interests and get along really well, so that’s helped us both feel relaxed in a foreign environment.
(11) How much support is there on tour? Do you feel part of a tour family or is it a lonely place at times?
We are definitely one big family! It’s really up to the player how they want to go about things, and I think making sure that you have a life outside of golf is just as important as the time you spend on tour. Travelling can be lonely but, again, it really is up to the individual what path they choose.
(12) Are you having fun on tour?
Yes I am. I know tour life is not for everyone and it’s not luxurious or as easy as people think, but if you surround yourself with the right people and also put yourself first, you will enjoy it.
(13) You and Minjee Lee have really put Australian women’s golf back in the spotlight with your respective performances on the LPGA Tour. What’s one part of her game you’d love to steal and why?
Definitely her ball-striking. Minjee is so consistent off the tee and also hits a lot of greens in regulation, which is key at our level.
(14) What’s her best quality as a person?
I’d say determination. Even as a junior Minjee was winning a lot of tournaments and I think because she works so hard and is so determined to get better, that’s why she is the player she is today.
(15) Do you feel there is a rise in interest in the women’s game globally?
I think there is, I really do. I would say the LPGA Tour reflects that. We play all over the world and just this past season had some of the biggest purses, as well as winner’s cheques, ever. That tells us the corporate support is increasing with spectator numbers.
(16) What’s the first thing you’d do to get more Aussie girls picking up a golf club?
Introducing golf to girls as young as possible is so important and I think making sure it’s done in a fun environment is critical. I think having it at schools and in big groups could be a way of getting those who don’t have a golfer in the family to be enticed to take up a sport that’s so much fun and so good for you. But making sure it’s all done in a very fun and relaxed environment is key.
(17) You’ve been snubbed for major sporting awards in the past. Does sport, globally, have a problem acknowledging women’s golf and the incredible talent in its ranks?
It’s always been really difficult for golfers to get recognised and even harder for female golfers. I would say most of us don’t take it too seriously because we already know what we have achieved is something big. Not being recognised in the mainstream only motivates us to work harder, go out there and win and hope to inspire the next generation of players coming through.
(18) Prediction: what headline are we going to see written about you this year?
I have no idea! But I would love for it to be a headline about having a great finish in Australia. I think we are so lucky that we have two opportunities to win on home soil. Hopefully I can take at least one of them!