Karrie Webb’s name has long been synonymous with success, but it is safe to say the seven-time major champion exceeded all expectations in her first appearance at the AIG Women’s Open.
As a 20-year-old rookie on the Ladies European Tour in 1995, Webb not only claimed victory on her maiden outing in the Women's Open, but did so in spectacular fashion, triumphing by six shots over the Duke’s Course at Woburn.
The Australian’s remarkable display ensured her victory was a formality by the time she reached the final hole of the Championship.
Yet despite her dominance in the event, World Golf Hall of Famer Webb revealed she could hardly believe the situation she found herself in 25 years ago.
“I’d been playing quite decently and had quite a few top-10s leading up to it, so I felt good about my game, but I don’t think you ever expect that,” said Webb.
“One of my greatest memories of the week is standing on that last tee. I think I backed off twice because I looked up and I was like, ‘I’m gonna win the Women’s Open, I can’t believe that I’m about to win the Women’s Open!’
“It was nice that I could play the last knowing that was about to happen. I was eight months into my professional career, so it was definitely very surreal. I was kind of like: ‘Is this real? Am I going to wake up from a dream?’”
“I feel like it is the most creative form of golf, playing on links” KARRIE WEBB
Victory at Woburn proved to be just the start for Webb, who would continue to excel in the Women’s Open with further successes in 1997 at Sunningdale and 2002 at Turnberry.
For a lover of links golf, the latter triumph was particularly sweet.
“I think it’s the challenges of not just the course, but the weather and what that gives you. I feel like it is the most creative form of golf, playing on links,” said Webb.
“Playing a lot in the US the last 20-25 years, I feel like US courses, it’s right there in front of you, the one shot that you’ve got to hit. Links golf, there’s so many ways to get it to the green or in the hole and so it just brings in that much creativity.
“I don’t feel like there’s any one shot that’s the wrong shot to play, but there’s multiple shots that you could play and it’s deciding which one you feel the most comfortable playing. It sort of takes you out of the stock-standard stuff that you practice on the range, that’s why I love it.
"I also know playing tournament golf on links that there are players who just don’t like it, they don’t like being taken out of their comfort zone, and so I feel like that has always been an advantage to me.
“I actually grew up in a really small town, the town of Ayr, which is named after Ayr in Scotland. It’s just a little country track (there) that isn’t a perfectly manicured course, so I just grew up hitting off different lies and having to manufacture shots, so I guess that creativity was sort of instilled in me.
“And then when you go and play the great courses in Australia, especially down the Melbourne Sandbelt, I feel like those courses are a cross between links and American-style target golf. I think you can play Sandbelt courses like American target golf, but a lot of the time they’re a lot drier and firmer, so you can play the ball along the ground to certain holes and there are a lot of similar shots around the greens to the ones you would play on links golf courses, so there’s definitely a lot more creativity.
“So I think learning to adjust to different situations, in Australia you get to do that playing amateur golf.”
An increasing number of leading links venues have hosted the Women’s Open in recent years, with Royal Birkdale, Carnoustie, Royal Liverpool, St Andrews, Turnberry, Kingsbarns and Royal Lytham & St Annes all staging the Championship since 2010.
Royal Troon joined that elite list this past summer, and it is a venue Webb has loved playing over the years, even if not in competition.
“All of my career I appreciate a lot more now than when I was in the thick of it. I definitely really appreciate it, and I appreciate playing where we’ve played, the venues we’ve played,” she added.
“Troon is one of the great links golf courses. I think it’s one of my favourites that I’ve played, anyway.
“The last 10, 12, 13 years, or even more than that, since we’ve started playing some of the great links around the UK, it took the Women’s Open to a higher level.
“When you win on one of those courses, you’ve won on a course where some of the best of the game have won, so it’s elevated the event.”
If venues like Troon play a part in elevating the event, the same can certainly be said of Webb, a three-time winner and Hero of the AIG Women's Open.