Australian Green Win at KPMG a Dissertation on Keeping it Together
Like other die-hard fans, I watch a lot of golf, and have for well over a half century. Most of the big moments? I’ve seen them. It has been a regular diet of being impressed by the people who play the game, because someone in the field of greats is always doing something remarkable on the course. The final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, a major for the women’s tour, ill stand out as something different after watching Hannah Green and her heroic victory over some of the scariest competitors in the game. Today, I wasn’t impressed – I was moved.
This past four days can be observed from so many directions. Green, from a family of European and New Zealand Maori parents, is utterly new at this major stuff. To play in one’s first major is considered a victory in itself. Not so for Green. No one in the outer golf world would have put two cents on a newcomer outlasting names like Ariya Jutanugarn and Sun Hyun Park. Greens’ first day lead was a rarity, and most wouldn’t put another two cents on her holding it. However, something inside had another opinion, and the young star led from first hole to last over the course of four days.
I tried to imagine the sort of pressure such a week would put on a newcomer’s nerves. All physically difficult pursuits based on competition cause anxiety. At some level, nerves are nerves, but the format sometimes makes them different.
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Green had to hold off charges from the greats for four days. The nerve demons tried to make her give it away with a string of bogeys in the last round, but inner heroics saved the day.
The final few holes were excruciating. Jutanugarn was pegged as the scariest pursuing presence, but my mind constantly switched back to Park as the most lethal opponent. Even when Green extended her lead to two in the late going, I expected Park to do something unthinkable, and feared Green would crumble, or pass into 2019 “coulda been” history in a playoff.
On the difficult 18th, Green’s long approach found the greenside bunker, and I thought “Time for the shot of your life, if you have any left. I’ll understand if you don’t – nice try, kid.” She did have one left, and some magic left in the putter. An up and down saved the win.
The study of nerves is an interesting field for me. Some “handle” their anxiety with an “ice water in the veins” demeanor. Others, like Green, show their nerves. I’m not sure if either type has an advantage over the other, although we have seen destructive nerves more than once, the poise-killing kind. Green looked positively stricken in the late holes, but she didn’t play that way. I went away thinking, “That’s just how she processes.”
Everyone who plays on the tour has coaches, mentors, and other important individuals for their lives and their game. For Hannah Green, there is Australian great Karrie Webb, who obviously and rightly thinks a lot of this young woman. I suspect that the relationship is a special one, and that what the champion veteran provided was something more akin to Obe Won Knobe than any old swing coach.
In winning her first major, Green upset history, Las Vegas oddsmakers, and even a lot of fine golfers and commentators. She did the unthinkable. “And yet she persisted” is now a common phrase in America referring to gender-based mistreatment. However, it sprang into my head at Green’s final putt as appropriate to this sort of moment as well.
The new champion took on the world and would not go away. Through the post-round interview, reality still had not set in. Perhaps hiding under the electric blanket, turning it up to 9 and letting it all fall out for two or three days is what it will take. That’s probably how I’d do it, but Hannah Green is tougher than I am.
I can’t remember the last time I stood in front of a golf tournament on TV and applauded. The 2019 KPGM will remain a distinct memory.