"When I won my third tournament as a pro [in 1975] and set the rookie earnings record with $26,798, everybody said it could lead to a rookie jinx," says Amy Alcott, who first won at age 19. "But Karrie seems like she's really in control of herself. Now it's a matter of how she uses this to grow as a player."
Webb is already $200,000 ahead of Helen Alfredsson's rookie earnings record set in 1992 and could become the first player since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to be both rookie and player of the year. The Titleholders was her seventh top-10 finish in nine 1996 events. As solid as he was last year, not even Norman was that consistent. "I told her to go home, her family misses her," says Dawn Coe-Jones. "She's too good."
She certainly was too good on Friday. Webb started with five straight birdies, made the turn in 29 and was eight under through 12 holes. Two bogeys ended the momentum, but Webb saved the round with a closing birdie to shoot 65 and tie the course record. Saturday night, after a 70, she went to dinner at a small restaurant across from Daytona International Speedway with Haller, his parents and the couple who hosted them last April in Ocala, and nobody recognized her. That will end soon.
In Australia—Webb grew up in the tiny Queensland town of Ayr (pop. 9,000)—she already is recognized as a national hero. "She's quickly becoming a sporting legend," says her father, Robert. Webb's name was all over the papers Down Under after the Titleholders. What she needs to get that kind of attention in the U.S. is a catchy nickname. Some of the Aussie women have tried calling her Spider, but Webb doesn't like that.
Webb will play in Japan after this week's McDonald's LPGA Championship and will return for the U.S. Women's Open. A major championship is on her list of goals, although the Titleholders is the next closest thing. To know she needed birdie at the last to win, and to hit a three-iron onto the 18th green to set it up, showed what kind of game Webb really has.
Now her name is engraved on a trophy beside those of Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias, Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth. And she gets a green jacket, size 6, to keep forever. That's all because she didn't pull a Norman. She pulled a Webb.