Seventeen years ago, Webb took the LPGA Tour by storm, waiting only until her second tournament to capture her first victory in between two runner-up finishes. It seemed easy for the Australian to build on her early success as she went on to tally 12 additional top-10s including three more wins that first season en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors. The youngest on the LPGA Tour at 21, Webb became the first rookie in golf history to cross the $1 million mark in single season earnings.
By the time Webb was 25 years old, she had already assembled a Hall of Fame-worthy career with 22 victories, 66 additional top-10s and earning Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy awards in back-to-back seasons (1999, 2000). But Webb had to wait until 2005 when she met the 10-year-minimum rule for induction into the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame. She had claimed 13 more victories by then, taking her total to 35.
Fast forward to present day and Webb continues to prove that her golf game has never waned over the years, claiming her 39th career victory at the ShopRite LPGA Classic last week. She has also tallied three additional top-10s this season.
Although she never fell too far off the radar in recent years, it seemed the young generation of up-and-comers stole the spotlight from some of the Tour’s most seasoned veterans. But at 38 years old, Webb claims the age gap doesn’t faze her in the slightest way.
“I remember what I used to think about 38-year-olds when I was a 21-year-old out on Tour,” said Webb. “I’m pretty sure that’s what they feel about me, saying I’m old and what have you. I don’t feel old though. I still feel young.”
Webb manages to keep up with the youngsters by adopting a new process she never performed even in her winningest years on Tour. Now a Pilates expert, Webb claims her new stretching and workout routines are the keys to her recent success.
“Ten or 12 years ago, I didn’t work out at all,” said Webb. “I had just added a stretching routine when I was 25. My stretching before that involved putting the club behind my back and doing a few twists before I started hitting balls.
“But now, I’m probably as fit as I’ve ever been. I’m a lot more aware of my body in the game of golf and I play the game a lot better than I did back then.”
Webb ventures back to Pittsford, New York for the Wegmans LPGA Championship this week. Only one of her seven major victories came in the LPGA Championship, although she’s won twice at Locus Hill Country Club in her career. Webb said she treasures each victory in her career, but capturing another major ranks at the top of her career goals.
“You know I just want to contend and give myself opportunities,” said Webb. “I know I still have the game to pull those wins out so it’s just getting myself into those positions. We have four majors left and I’d like to contend in all of them and then see how it shakes out. If I win one, then that would be fantastic.”
As for Webb’s long-term objectives, she sets her sights on representing Australia in the 2016 Olympics when LPGA and PGA Tour pros head to Rio de Janeiro. For someone who carried the Olympic Torch on the eve of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Webb says going back as an athlete would be the ultimate reward considering her successful career.
“That would be a really special thing to achieve,” said Webb of her hopes to make the team. “Three and a half years away doesn’t seem like a lot, and it will probably go by quickly. That’s probably the farthest I’m looking now in terms of long-term goals. If it all works out in my favor, I’ll see how I decide the rest of my career goals go after that.”
If her ShopRite LPGA Classic victory wasn’t proof enough, Webb shows there is plenty of gas left in the tank to propel her through plenty more seasons on the LPGA Tour.
“I really do believe that if I can get on a roll of confidence and consistently, week-in and week-out, believe in my ability, then I still have a good run left in me,” said Webb. “I don’t know what that means as far as how many tournaments I can win or where I would be on the Rolex World Rankings. I don’t look at that as much as I used to. But I do know I’m capable of having a very long career and I don’t see it ending any time soon.”