Hannah Green has jumped from the ranks to be just the third woman in Australian golfing history to win a major championship.
The 22-year-old from Mt Lawley Golf Club in Perth rolled in a par putt from just inside two metres at Hazeltine National Golf Club just outside Minneapolis to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship by a shot after an epic final day.
She was immediately mobbed on the green by none other than Karrie Webb, the seven-time major champion who has mentored her, and fellow pro Su Oh. Webb, Oh and a bunch of Australians including her boyfriend Jarryd Felton have been staying together in a house locally this week, along with two members of the Webb Scholarship squad, Becky Kay and Grace Kim.
Only two other Aussie women – Webb and Jan Stephenson – have won majors.
Having led the tournament from day one, Green needed to get up and down from the left greenside trap at the par-four 18th to win, because former world No. 1 and defending champion Sung Hyun Park had made a great birdie on the final hole to post eight-under par overall.
Green hit a terrific trap shot from a delicate spot, leaving herself a right-to-left knee-knocker to win it outright. She buried the putt for her first-ever win on the LPGA Tour, a surprising triumph to many because she was previously winless on the main tour and ranked 114th in the world.
But perhaps it is a sign that she has arrived as a truly world class player. Most of her golfing life, Green has been in the shadow of the other top amateurs who arrived on the national scene with her – WA counterpart Minjee Lee and Victorian Oh. She was a fine amateur, represented her country and won a WA junior title and a Victorian Amateur among other moments, but she was not considered in the class of Lee, who is now the No. 3 player in the world.
The win was a monumental triumph for a personable girl who learned her golf watching her Kiwi father Tau, who still a keen golfer.
“I mean, I’m pretty much speechless,” Green told the broadcaster afterward. “I was really nervous playing that last five holes, and I’m happy I made a clutch putt because that was pretty much what was struggling through the round. To get the one at the last is surreal.
“It’s awesome. I mean, I’ve always wanted to win in front of an Aussie crowd, but it felt like even though I’m not in Australia, that was what it was like today. And even just to be winning a major as my first event, I’m just over the moon.’’
Green led from wire-to-wire, shooting 68-69-70-72 to earn a cheque for $US 577,000, giving herself an exemption to play on the main tour for two years and putting herself into the slot to represent Australia at the Olympics in Tokyo next year.
Her three previous wins as a professional were on the secondary Symetra Tour in 2017, when she earned her card to play on the LPGA. Her previous-best finish in an LPGA Tour event was third at the 2018 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and this was just her seventh start in a major.
She had to earn it. Starting out a shot ahead and playing alongside one of the most intimidating players in world golf, Ariya Jutanugarn, she initially charged to a four-shot lead with two early bogeys as the Thai superstar faltered.
But it got messy from the ninth, where she leaked a bogey and at the par-five 11th she was overly aggressive with her wedge to the green and dropped another, then another at the par-four 12th after a poor chip from the front of the green. With Park and Nelly Korda circling, the lead was suddenly only one.
What happened next says it all about the way she played. Green hauled herself together and made three straight pars, then the killer blow, a four-metre downhill birdie at the par-four 16th hole that curled in the left side of the hole, drawing a little fist pump. The pars at the 17th and 18th did the trick for her.
In her most trying moment as a pro, she went one-under par through the last six holes on a course playing long and tough for everybody.
That it happened to be the week that the Webb Scholarship duo were in town was significant, for Green herself was part of that program in 2015, when she stayed with the legendary Australian at a US Women’s Open, picking up tips. The presence of her golf professional boyfriend Jarryd Felton was important, too, for she has struggled with the loneliness of the tour, and Felton has not always been able to be beside her given his own playing commitments.
Webb said she was nervous when Green bogeyed the ninth, but added that her protégé had slept soundly. “We had a loud clap of thunder that shook the house, and she never heard that. I thought that was a good sign that she’d slept really soundly and the nerves hadn’t gotten to her last night. She was quiet this morning, but Hannah’s not a big talker anyway. We were just discussing how great our Aussie barbecue was last night and how much fun that she had. It was good that she had a relaxing evening.’’
It promises to be a big party at the Aussie house tonight. And rightly so.
Photo at top: Hannah Green lifts the championship trophy. Credit: LPGA