NAPLES, FLORIDA | She seems so conservative, so demure and soft spoken. No way to you label her as a risk-taker. That would be like assuming a nun skydives or assuming that your tax accountant hunts great white sharks with a spear. Hannah Green, the 24-year-old major champion and two-time LPGA Tour winner from Perth, Australia, is quiet and thoughtful, the kind of person who listens twice as much as she speaks, who came to the U.S. as a junior with Karrie Webb and seemed perfectly comfortable hiding in the corners without uttering a peep. Since joining the Tour, she has come out of her shell in the kindest possible way. Green is unfailingly polite. Courtly. Old folks would call her “sweet.” But not a soul who knows her would categorize Hannah Green as a risk-taker.
So, when Green captured the Aon Risk Reward Challenge - a season-long contest sponsored by Aon that awards a $1 million bonus to the player with the lowest scoring average on the Aon Risk Reward Challenge holes – more than a few people who know her raised their eyebrows and said, “really?”
“I try to be aggressive when I'm on the golf course,” Green said with a smile. “I feel like that's where I can show that side of me.”
Then she expounded on her love for the Aon Risk Reward Challenge by saying, “I just thought this was a great concept. To be able to have the opportunity to showcase it every week was really cool.”
Green averaged almost a full shot under par on every Aon Risk Reward hole. She birdied 72% of the risk reward holes during her 40 minimum rounds needed and she made eagle on another 10%.
“It was just something I really wanted to win, especially coming down the crunch,” she said. “Maybe that shows my golf a little bit more, and hopefully I can keep this trophy for another year. … I would always read the fact sheet to see what hole (the Aon Risk Reward Challenge) was and always tried to make sure that I got a practice round on that hole.
“I wasn't really aware of where my standings were until the British Open. (Broadcaster and former Duke Blue Devil golfer) Ally Whittaker, a friend of mine was doing the commentary for the Women's AIG Open (and said) that I was leading. I was like, oh, okay.
“With seven or eight events left in the year anything can really happen, so the last three or four events I was definitely paying attention. When I played in Korea (at the BMW Championship) I made two birdies, which is what I needed to do.”
After the second birdie in Korea, Green reacted as if she had won another major.
“I'm not very emotional when I'm on the golf course,” she said. “I don't really fist pump a lot or high five with my caddie. But that was a big moment for me and Nate. Yeah, just shows how important it is to us LPGA players for me to, yeah, sacrifice an event, and also make decisions on the golf course.”
So, how did she do it? How did sweet, steady, quiet Hannah Green become a damn-the-torpedoes aggressor?
“With the added length that I gained this off-season it's been really nice to come to golf (holes) that I've seen before and actually be able to go for them in two comfortably on a Par-5 or even go for it (from the tee) on a par-4,” she said. “That's been quite a big change. I mean, every player assesses the golf course, and you obviously have to pull it off as well, which is the hardest thing. Sometimes you can go for it and hit it exactly where you want it, but for some reason things don't work out.
“There is a lot of risk that you need to take, but also you have to hit the shot and pull it off.”
Aon remains committed gender equity and putting its money behind the rhetoric. The company gives $1 million bonus to the PGA TOUR member and LPGA Tour member who win the season-long contest. Matthew Wolfe locked up the PGA TOUR award during the FedEx Cup playoffs in September. Green did it in Korea last month. The difference is what that amount of money means to each of them.
“I actually wanted to buy a house during the off-season, so this gives me an opportunity to actually play comfortably,” Green said. “It is quite difficult to buy houses in Australia, especially as a sports person with the not-frequent (or steady) income, and as well as foreign income.”
Green currently bases herself in the Australian Golf Union housing complex in Orlando, Fla. when she is playing in the U.S.
“In a way, for me it will be life changing,” she said of the money. “I could almost pay my house off and not have a mortgage, so it's setting me up for after I finish playing golf. So, yeah, to me it definitely is life changing.”