It was a first for Karrie Webb on Saturday when, at 7.23 am, she and American Jennifer Song headed the field out for the third round of the ISPS Handa Australian Open at Royal Canberra for usually she’s at the pointy end of the field at the weekend especially here at home.
But, she wasn’t the only riser. Several hundred folk, predominantly parents with small children, trailed the duo around the course and were rewarded with a little of the old Webb magic along the way to a four-under par 69.
A score and then some more little kids waited outside the scorer’s hut for her autograph, on scraps of paper, golf balls and the official programme, and she left no one disappointed, posing for every request from parents for photographs with her and their offspring.
And, Webb had one of her Karrie Webb scholarship winners, Western Australia Jessica Speechley, to thank for actually being present for the weekend. As play neared a close on Friday evening 70 players were at two under the card with the cut to be set at 70 plus ties.
Speechley, one of the players at two under, came up 10 metres shy of the green on the par 5 18th and then failed to get up and down for her par to fall back one under for the 36 holes and thus giving 12 other players, including Laura Davies, a reprieve from spending the weekend practising or whatever else they cared to do.
“I never like to miss cuts but I didn’t want to stand here and practice this weekend. I wanted to play so I’m really glad that I got two rounds extra to get things ready for next week (when the LPGA Tour heads to Thailand),” Webb said.
On Speechley unwitting act of benevolence, she said: “I didn’t want to bring it up this morning (when they crossed paths) about her bogey at the last. Last night I watching the scores of the girls on the other side of the course and didn’t know what had happened until this morning.
“Jessica said to me this morning: ‘Apparently I let you play today.’ I said: ‘I wasn’t going to bring that up but thank you.’”
Each year, two girls are awarded a Karrie Webb scholarship based on their amateur tournament performances and part of the reward is to spend the week with the seven-time major champion at the US Women’s Open.
Nothing happened for Webb in the first two rounds of 71-74 – “It was a little better today. It was nice to have good fresh greens, the greens putted really nice so no footprints or bumps or anything like that on them’” she said.
“The first two days I didn’t really have the good feel I had up on the Gold Coast (when she won an eighth Australian Ladies Masters title) is not quite there, or rather I’m not consistent, and I’m not driving it well .I’m not able to hit a draw with my driver right now and you need that on about 10 tee shots around here so that’s been the biggest struggle really.
“My body is not the same each week for what ever reason so the feel just not there every week but I’ll do some work this afternoon. It was a bit better today,” Webb said.
Davies shot a one under 72, but it was Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera who was the early plunderer of the Royal Canberra layout, shooting an eight-under 65 with seven birdies, an eagle and a sole bogey on her card to move to nine under after 54 holes, still six strokes shy of Colombian Mariajo Uribe who was still a couple of hours away from hitting off.