Hannah Green's success at KPMG Women's PGA Championship brings joy to mentor Karrie Webb
Four years ago, Australian Hannah Green was following LPGA veteran Karrie Webb along the gallery ropes as Webb played in the 2015 U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania.
Green was stateside as a scholarship winner in the 2015 Karrie Webb Series, a program started by the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer in 2007 to help mentor Australian women amateurs.
"That U.S. Women's Open was my first-ever tournament I was able to watch in person," Green said. "It definitely opened my eyes to golf over here."
Green was walking the course that week because of her season performance in Webb's program. At the conclusion of a series of 10-12 tournaments, the program's top two performers are awarded a $10,000 scholarship each year to use for tournament travel expenses.
But even bigger than the stipend for Green was the real performance bonus: an all-expenses-paid trip for the program's two top amateurs to spend the week with Webb during a major championship and to observe her preparation and performance.
They weren't just at the tournament. They were there learning at Webb's elbow.
Four years later at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, Webb could see validation of her investment. Green was the player at the top of the leaderboard after the first round in Chaska, Minnesota.
And the native of Perth, Australia, kept her foot on the gas into Friday's second round at Hazeltine National Golf Club, posting a 7-under 137 on the scoreboard for everyone else to chase -- including Webb, her mentor.
"It's kind of crazy that I was there four years ago ... outside the ropes, walking and watching and seeing all of these players," Green said Thursday after her opening round. "It's really surreal, I guess."
Perhaps not as surprised was Webb, who once again is being followed this week by the top two 2019 Australian amateur scholarship winners. Decked out in colorful garb and bright yellow tutus, the amateurs have followed Webb every step and cheered for every shot, while also keeping an eye on Green.
Webb, who has scaled back her tournament schedule for the past few years, missed the cut after a two-day total of 6-over 150. But while Webb was likely still stewing over her opening-round 79 -- which she followed with a second-round 71 -- the fiery veteran with 41 wins and seven major championships was also keeping an eye on her protégé.
Honestly, I get just as much joy watching them in this program as they get from being a part of it.Karrie Webb
"It's awesome," Webb said Friday afternoon about Green's performance this week. "Four-under Thursday afternoon with the rain was phenomenal, and then she's continued today, which is even more awesome. I'm those girls' biggest cheerleader."
Webb came up with the idea to create her own program after she was mentored by former PGA star and fellow Australian Greg Norman when she was an amateur. Webb "shadowed" Norman as a junior player and earned the opportunity to travel to Florida for a week to stay in the Norman family home, learning how he prepared for tournaments.
Following her own success on the LPGA Tour, Webb worked with Golf Australia to form the Karrie Webb Series in 2007 and to establish criteria needed to help her country's top women amateurs potentially develop into top professionals at the highest level.
Watching Green turn professional, come to the United States to compete on the 2017 Symetra Tour -- where she won three times -- and finish second on the Symetra's season money list has been fun for the 25-year veteran who became a super-Grand Slam winner after winning every available major during her career.
"Honestly, I get just as much joy watching them in this program as they get from being a part of it," Webb said. "It's great to see them getting out here and competing with the best players in the world. Hopefully Hannah continues to have a strong weekend."
While Webb has played a large part in Green's growth as a young professional, Green still sometimes has to pinch herself to think that a player of Webb's stature has not only become a mentor, but a friend as well.
When Green won her first tournament as a pro in 2017 on the Symetra Tour, Webb was the first person to text her congratulations. At the time, Webb was in an Australian time zone 12 hours ahead of where Green was playing in the United States.
"To have someone text you and say congratulations is pretty cool," Green said. "Even when I had good results in Australia, I always had messages from her."
This week at the KPMG tournament, Webb is sharing a rented home with six other Australians, including Green and her boyfriend. In a sense, Green has come full circle, thanks to Webb. She was a wide-eyed amateur four years ago, hoping to learn from one of the world's top players.
Now, that player, who is closer to the end of her career than the beginning, is paying it forward for the next generation.
"Hannah seems pretty comfortable, and to play bogey-free that first round was impressive," Webb said. "She made a couple of clutch putts at the right time, and that's what happens when you win golf tournaments. You do the right things at the right time."
Much can happen over two rounds of major championship golf, but no doubt, Webb will be paying attention Sunday.
And Green would like nothing better than to show Webb what she's learned in four years.
"To see that U.S. Women's Open [in 2015] was really a big step for me and definitely pushed me to want to be out here on tour," Green said. "And having Karrie still out here playing, and playing a practice round with her is really cool. I'm very lucky to have her as a really good friend."
Lisa D. Mickey has covered golf for Golf World, Golf For Women, The New York Times, the U.S. Golf Association, LPGA.com, Virginia Golfer Magazine and for various other publications and websites. She is based in Florida.