Photo courtesy of Golf Australia
Hannah Green and Minjee Lee graduated from the Karrie Webb scholarship squad having watched the greatest of Australian golfers in US Women’s Opens and stayed at her home in America, learning from the best. Now, their own time has come, a metaphorical passing of the baton for golf in this country.
Webb is 43 and a part-timer by choice, and she missed the cut at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Kooyonga with a disappointing second round.
As it happened, Green and Lee, 21-year-olds out of Perth, did not flinch at the responsibility.
Green bolted around Kooyonga in the day’s low round today, a 66, and at seven-under overall will enter the final round outright second, playing in the last group with South Korea’s Jin Young Ko, who leads the tournament by four shots at 11-under par.
Lee is tied-fifth at five-under and acknowledged that she would need to “shoot the lights out’’ to win. But she is not about to give up.
The tournament had lacked an Australian flourish in the opening two days but Green, the Golf Australia rookie squad member who is having her rookie season on the LPGA Tour, provided it in spades, starting with three consecutive birdies. At the par-four eighth she hit an awesome mid-iron shot inside a metre for another birdie, then two great shots left her putting for eagle on the par-five ninth, where she had to be content with birdie.
By this time she was on the leaderboard and the last hour of her second round, where she logged four consecutive bogeys, seemed long ago. “It was obviously tough last night finishing, but I actually got over it really quickly, went straight to the range, hit some balls,’’ she said later. “I probably only hit 20 balls, because I knew I wasn’t too far away from where I needed to be.’’
That’s Green, the ever-positive Australian with the great attitude. Jin Yong Ko, the Korean who leads the tournament by four shots, was asked what she knew about the woman she will play alongside tomorrow, and she said, simply: “She’s smiling every day.’’
Green closed out a great day with a brilliant short iron to the 18th, tapped in the birdie for a 66, and at seven-under par she will start tomorrow four shots behind the brilliant Ko.
By the time Green signed her card, Lee was on the course and marauding as well. At the par-five ninth, she hit her second shot on the green and rolled in the putt to find the momentum. Three more birdies on the back nine, including one at the 18th, gave her a 69. At five-under, she is six behind Ko but she was not prepared to write it off.
“I think I have every chance too, I’ve just got to shoot probably the lights out tomorrow,’’ she said. “I mean, there’s every chance at this point.’’
As for Green, she is lapping up the attention at the start of a year when she will hardly be on Australian soil. The thought of taking the national championship away to Asia and then America with her in her first year on the LPGA Tour appeals, clearly. “I mean, it’s awesome,’’ she said. “I’ve played probably my best golf the last three weeks and it’s just great to be here in Australia. I won’t be back for - I don’t even know, I haven’t really looked at my schedule -- so, I’m just really enjoying my time at home and playing another event next week in Australia and then a couple of weeks back in Perth.’’
Although her task is huge against the world No. 20, she talked up the chances. “Yes, I felt like maybe if I was coming into this event with a little bit lesser form I would be happy to make the cut, but I was in contention, I think at five-under, so I’m not there to just make the cut, I’m here to win. Every golfer is out here to win. I feel like you have to set a high goal and slowly almost hitting those goals, you’re doing really well. Now I’ve done that today, I’ve put myself in contention so I’m very happy with how things are turning out.’’
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