• Webb one to watch at TPS Victoria, Smith warns

The new wave of hot talent coming through the ranks of Australian women’s golf has been put on notice that seven-time major champion Karrie Webb does not play for fun.

Webb will make her TPS Victoria debut at Rosebud Country Club starting Thursday where the Hall of Famer is expected to draw large galleries eager to glimpse arguably Australia’s greatest ever golfer.

A regular on the LPGA Tour since 2006, Sarah Jane Smith also adds star power to the first event of the 2023 Webex Players Series and will compete at TPS Murray River and TPS Sydney before returning to the US.

Webb is locked in for WPGA Tour of Australasia appearances at TPS Victoria and the Vic Open and Smith doesn’t expect to see anything less than the pure competitor who has accumulated 55 wins worldwide in her career, the latest of which was the Senior LPGA Championship last July.

Webb led late into the final round of the mixed gender Cathedral Invitational prior to Christmas and was tied for 26th at the Women’s Australian Open at Victoria Golf Club.

When Smith joined the professional ranks in December 2004, Webb was already a six-time major champion and she is anticipating that Webb will be well prepared by the time she tees it up on Thursday.

“No, no, no, definitely not,” Smith answered when asked whether Webb is the type of personality who plays for fun.

“I don’t want to put words in her mouth but I feel like she probably has more fun now but she doesn’t play for fun, no.

“She plays to still beat everyone, that’s for sure.”

A top-five finisher at the 2018 US Women’s Open and tied for third at the 2017 Women’s Australian Open, Smith said that having Webb in the field for major Australian tournaments was critical in her early development as a professional.

“At that point Karrie was world No.1 and dominant but Rachel Hetherington was the same,” added Smith, who had the honour of unveiling the Karrie Webb Cup prior to the start of the Australian WPGA Championship last January.

“She was winning multiple times a year so we had two of the best players in the world that would come back and support the Australian tour. To be playing with them and seeing what was possible at a young age was incredible.

“You couldn’t have had two better people to look up to growing up in the game.”

Webb’s inspiration and the scholarship that bears her name has brought through Australian major winners such as Minjee Lee and Hannah Green in recent years.

Now the next generation such as LPGA Tour player Stephanie Kyriacou, Kirsten Rudgeley, Melbourne International winner Cassie Porter and runner-up Kelsey Bennett get to experience what it’s like to see Karrie the competitor at close quarters.

It will also represent the first time that Smith has gone head-to-head against male professionals in the unique Webex Players Series format.

She was third at the Australian WPGA Championship played concurrently with the mens event at Royal Queensland in January 2022 and will draw inspiration from Hannah Green’s victory at TPS Murray last year.

“That was really cool, to see her win it,” said Smith.

“I’ve heard it’s set up nicely for the girls so hopefully we can have some more women winners over the next few weeks.

“It will be a different experience again because even though we played with the boys at the PGA, it was separate purses and two totally different tournaments whereas this time we’re literally playing against each other.

“It’s good to have those kinds of nerves at this stage in my career.

“There’s not a lot of things that make you a little bit nervous for the change in atmosphere so it will be fun.

“I’m really looking forward to it and I’ve had nothing but amazing experiences with all the young guys coming through.”

TPS Victoria also represents the resumption of the 2022/2023 ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia season.

Current season winners teeing it up are Tom Power Horan (Gippsland Super 6), Andrew Martin (Victorian PGA), Deyen Lawson (WA Open) and David Micheluzzi (WA PGA) along with defending champion Todd Sinnott, Japan Golf Tour regular Anthony Quayle and tournament host, 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.

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