ShopRite LPGA Classic: Hall of Famer Karrie Webb wins by 2 shots
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Karrie Webb's grandmother Marion Webb telephoned her in the middle of last week.
The 87-year-old Marion was in the hospital. Webb's parents told her that Marion might die. The grandmother asked Webb to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic for her.
Webb, an LPGA Hall of Famer, shook her head.
"This isn't the one that you tell me that I have to win for you," Webb said, "because I've never really even had a shot to win here."
The Australian native surprised herself Sunday by winning a Classic played in what were probably the toughest conditions in the tournament's 25-year history.
Webb shot a 3-under-par 68 in the gusty wind on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club to win with a 54-hole total of 4-under 209 - two shots better than runner-up Shanshan Feng of China. Webb earned $225,000.
The victory was Webb's 39th on the LPGA Tour. Her last victory came on March 20, 2011, at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix. Webb became the sixth Hall of Fame golfer to win the Classic.
Webb had considered pulling out of the tournament and flying home last Thursday. But Marion's condition improved.
"I talked to her on the phone and she had said that she didn't want me to come home and that I had to win that one for her," Webb said. "She's on the mend, but this is still for her."
The wind, which gusted off Reeds Bay up to 35 mph, blew for all three days of the tournament, but especially Saturday and Sunday. The wind shook the tops of trees and whipped across the bay holes, making club selection a guessing game at times. The winds dried out the greens, and golfers struggled to keep even the best-spun approach shots close to the cup or even on the putting surface.
Only13 players broke par Sunday and only three - Webb, Feng and Hee Young Park (1-under 212) - finished under for the tournament.
"I thought we were warming up for the British Open," said Feng, who shot a 4-over 75 Sunday.
Fans surrounded the first tee to watch the leaders tee off. The crowd packed the grandstands at the 18th hole as the players finished.
A fan atop a luxury box shouted, "C'mon, Aussie!" as Webb left the 18th green.
Webb, 38, began the final round five shots back of second-round leader Feng.
Webb said didn't mind the wind as she warmed up on the driving range. She felt it gave her a chance to win.
"I wouldn't have been comfortable in Shanshan's position," Webb said.
Webb was easily the most accomplished player of the golfers who began the day on the leader board. The 38-year-old has won seven LPGA major championships. She was the LPGA Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000.
But Webb had never seriously contended on the final day of the Classic. She always seemed to shoot a low round here, including a final-round 65 in 2011 and a final-round 64 in 2010 to finish tied for eighth both years. But she could never string three rounds together, and those low rounds came without the pressure of being in contention.
"I think it's a really tricky golf course," Webb said. "I look forward to this event and then I get here and then I realize that it's not a walk in the park."
Webb grabbed the momentum immediately Sunday. She sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the second hole, a 420-yard, par-4 that plays straight into Reeds' Bay and is the toughest hole on the course. Her birdie was just one of 16 made at that hole during the entire tournament.
"I felt a little bit lucky," Webb said of the putt. "It was off line for how I read it, and I think the wind blew it back on line."
Webb then eagled No. 3, a 484-yard par-5. She hit her second shot to within 6 feet of the pin and sank the birdie putt. After that start, Webb began to think she could win the Classic for her grandmother.
Webb sank putts of 5-8 feet to save par at holes No. 4, 7, 8, 11, 13 and 14. She needed just 28 putts to finish her round.
Webb took her first lead of the day when Feng bogeyed the 405-yard, par-4 13th hole after leaving her approach shot short of the green in the rough.
Webb took a two-shot lead when she sank a 5-foot putt to birdie the 18th hole.
Feng birdied the 16th hole to close within a shot of Webb. But then bogeyed the 115-yard, par-3 17th hole after she hit her tee shot into the front bunker. Feng needed to eagle the 18th hole to tie Webb. She didn't try for the green in two and ended with a par.
"(Sunday) was so tough," Feng said. "It doesn't seem like a great score, but I tried my best."
Webb's winning score matched the highest at Seaview in Classic history - a 4-under 209 set by Juli Inkster at the first Classic in 1986.
The Classic has often been a birdie-fest since then. Since the tournament returned to Seaview from Greate Bay Country Club in Somers Point in 1998, the winner has always been at least 11-under.
Webb joins Juli Inkster (1986, 1988); Betsy King (1987, 1995, 2001); Nancy Lopez (1989); Annika Sorenstam (1998, 2002, 2005); and Se Ri Pak (1999) as Hall of Famers who won the Classic. All of those players, except Lopez, won at least one Classic at Seaview.
The names of past Classic winners are inscribed on a board in Seaview's grill room restaurant.
"One of my friends said at the beginning of the week that it was time that my name went up there," Webb said. "I think we (Hall of Famers) have obviously won a lot and we've overcome our emotions a lot and learned to stay patient, and I think this course is really one of those courses that you have to do that."
Webb seemed to be soaking in her win while she answered the media's questions. She said she was confident her family had told Marion that Webb had won.
Webb won her first LPGA event in 1995 when she was 21. Victories such as Sunday's seem to mean more to her than the wins early in her career.
"I think when I was winning a lot, the 22-, 23-year-old me wouldn't have said that I was taking it for granted," Webb said, "but I definitely did not enjoy that great golf enough. I want (to win now) so that I can enjoy it more than I did when I was winning a lot."
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