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March 10, 1997
Karrie Webb's Second Dad
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March 10, 1997

News And Notes

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Ask the Professors

We asked the GOLF PLUS Professors, our panel of 20 of the game's top teachers, to name pro golf's biggest overachievers and underachievers. They felt that Ryder Cup captain Tom Kite, the Tour's second alltime leading money winner, has done the most with the least talent. Conversely, they said that Gary Hallberg, the 1979 NCAA champion, who has three Tour wins in 17 years, and sweet-swinging Tom Purtzer, a five-time winner whose first victory came 20 years ago in the L.A. Open, have done the least with the most.


Tom Kite


Corey Pavin



Gary Hallberg


Tom Purtzer


Bobby Clampett


John Daly


Eddie Pearce


Karrie Webb's Second Dad

You've heard of Karrie Webb, the 22-year-old Australian who in 1996, her first year on the LPGA tour, won four tournaments and became the first woman to earn $1 million in a season. Unknown, however, at least in this country, is the story of her teacher, Kelvin Haller, who is confined to a wheelchair and lives in Webb's hometown of Ayr, a farming community of 8,500 in north Queensland.

Haller, 42, has been Webb's coach since she took up the game at 12. Always an avid golfer, he worked in his family's news agency in Ayr. Next door was a gift shop owned by Webb's grandparents who, when Karrie was eight, gave her a toy golf club. Karrie often ambled into his shop, swinging the club in a perfect are that caught Mailer's attention. A few years later the grandparents took Karrie to Brisbane to watch Greg Norman. "She returned," says Haller, "bursting with enthusiasm for the game."

The Ayr Golf Club did not have a pro, so Karrie's parents asked Haller, then a two handicapper, to give her some lessons. Soon after, the club hired Haller as its greenkeeper. By this time Webb had caught the attention of many well-known teaching pros, including Charlie Earp, Greg Norman's first coach. "She could have changed to someone else," says Haller, "but she had confidence in what I was doing."

In 1990 Haller came into contact with an electrified fence at Ayr Golf Club. The shock he received left him a paraplegic, and he has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. A pending lawsuit prevents him and the club from discussing the accident. He has never gone overseas to watch his star pupil, but the teacher-student relationship endures. "I know Karrie's swing so well I can fix whatever is wrong by talking to her," says Haller, who also coaches a few beginners in a field near his house. By phone, he tells Webb's caddie what to look for, and if she has a major problem—clearly, Webb didn't have many last year—she returns home for repairs. "It's always a special moment when I see her," Haller says.

They got together two weeks ago when Webb returned home for a visit in Ayr before playing in the Alpine Australian Ladies Masters, the LPGA's first-ever event Down Under. "Kelvin is like my second father," says Webb, who finished second in the Alpine, one stroke behind the winner, Gail Graham. "He has taught me everything I know. I credit him for the way I play."

McCumber's Natural Wonder Heron Bay

One of the most common complaints Tour pros make about modern courses is that they are gimmicky and contrived. At the new TPC at Heron Bay, in Coral Springs, Fla., which replaces Weston Hills in Fort Lauderdale for next week's Honda Classic, they will see the opposite.

The 7,329-yard, par-72 public course, designed by Mark McCumber, has a benign, lay-of-the-land look with minimal mounding and mostly clear approaches to flat greens. Water comes into play on only three holes, an unprecedented condition for a Tour venue in Florida. There are, however, 108 bunkers, five of them on the hardest hole, the 450-yard par-4 18th, which also has a pond that runs along the right side of the fairway and in front of the green.

"What stands the test of time at a Winged Foot or a Pinehurst or a Shinnecock Hills," says McCumber, "is that they can be set up to be playable for the amateur golfer, but become championship tests with grooming." For the Honda, Heron Bay will have four-inch rough and firm greens that are expected to check out at 11 on the stimpmeter. Still, the chief hazard will probably be the wind, which generally blows between 15 and 20 mph at the virtually treeless course.

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