LOS ANGELES • Four years ago, Hannah Green was attending the US Women's Open as part of her reward for winning a Karrie Webb scholarship for amateur golfers. On Sunday, she followed in Webb's footsteps by winning the Women's PGA Championship, becoming the third Australian woman to win a Major.
Webb, who won the event in 2001, has been sponsoring Australia's top female amateurs with US$10,000 (S$13,540) scholarships since 2008, bringing them on visits to the United States to get a taste of Major championships.
Inspired by her visit to Lancaster Country Club in 2015, Green turned pro a year later and on Sunday claimed her first LPGA Tour victory, joining Webb (seven titles) and Jan Stephenson (three) as Australian women Major winners.
With Webb looking on nervously from the galleries, the 22-year-old Green kept her composure to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the last, sinking a four-foot putt to pip defending champion Park Sung-hyun by a stroke.
"Being able to stay in a house with her (Webb), watching everything she does in a tournament... it definitely gave me a big insight into what it was like," Green said after her win at Hazeltine National which was also her first LPGA title.
"I'm very grateful to her and I know everyone that has had her scholarship is very grateful, too."
Green, the daughter of a New Zealand father and a Scottish mother, led wire-to-wire and carded an even-par 72 to finish at nine-under 279 to stave off Park (68).
The world ranking of Hannah Green, 22, when she won the Women's PGA Championship on Sunday for her first win on the LPGA Tour.
A further two strokes back, in a tie for third, were Nelly Korda (71) of the United States and Englishwoman Mel Reid (66).
Including Park, seven Major winners finished in the top 13: Danielle Kang (70), who was tied for fifth at five under; Kim Hyo-joo (70) and Park In-bee (71), who were among a group in seventh; and Lydia Ko (68), Ryu So-yeon (68) and Ariya Jutanugarn (77), who had a piece of 10th.
"I can't believe I'm in this position now," added Green, ranked 114th in the world at the start of last week.
"I wasn't really feeling as confident at the start of the week with my swing. I mean, I've always wanted to win an event, and to win a Major as my first event is crazy."
Green got some added inspiration as she walked off the eighth green when a young fan named Lily stepped forward and handed her a poem she had written.
"I got a cute little poem saying that I had given her a ball and also said: 'You can win this'," she said.
"I had it in the back of my yardage book because I didn't want it to get rained on. A couple times on the back nine when I was feeling nervous and had some time, I actually read it to myself. I have to thank Lily, I think it really helped me."
On the last hole, Green stood in the fairway and listened to thunderous applause after Park drained a birdie attempt to finish the weekend at eight-under.
She knew from the crowd's reaction that to avoid a play-off, she had to manage at least a par on the hole. When it finally came her turn to hit, she sent her ball into a greenside bunker.
Pinched for space between the sand and the pin, Green hit out to five feet and made the putt. At no point in the final tense minutes was she as stressed as Webb, who said: "I wanted to throw up."
But Webb, who before Green was the last Australian woman to win a Major at the Kraft Nabisco (the current ANA Inspiration) in 2006, was nearly as excited as the newly crowned champion afterwards.
"This has just changed her life. She won't realise until she wakes up tomorrow morning," she said.
"That's world class the way she closed out that tournament."
Webb also hopes Green's victory will inspire young girls in Australia to pursue a game that plays second fiddle to other sports Down Under.
"With Ashleigh (Barty) winning the French Open (tennis) and becoming world No. 1 today, we're really playing catch-up as far as where golf fits in that," she added.
REUTERS, NYTIMES,AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE