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Webb chasing balance in golf funding

(Photo: Bruce Young)
When Karrie Webb speaks people listen. That might not have always been the case but in more recent times her opinions are sought after and measured and are generally based on her years of experience in the game where she could lay claim to being Australia's greatest ever golfer.

So when the 39 year old said today at a post Women's Australian Open media conference that golf needed more funding there was interest in what she had in mind. Not everybody would agree as the elite of the game already have a small fortune spent on them with little to show in return other than the advancement of a career but Webb appeared to be taking a different angle.

"I was just in an Olympic meeting and talking about the Olympics in 2016," said Webb who was readying herself for a title at a fifth Women's Australian open. "I think when golf was announced in the Olympics, I think all around the world we thought governments would be giving golf more money now, more funding.

"I think we shouldn't be saying the men are doing this and the women are doing this, I think our results should be grouped together because we're going to be a golf team as part of the Australian team at the Olympics.

"If I were to win a medal at the Olympics I think it would impact funding for Golf Australia across the board, it wouldn't just impact women's golf. I'm not sure if the Government's waiting to see if we produce any medals but I think what Adam Scott did last year reminded me a lot of what Greg Norman was doing when I was a little kid.

"I don't necessarily mean that young girls aren't inspired by a male, because that's what got me into golf and wanting to be a professional golfer, you know, Greg Norman was the best thing on the planet when I was a young kid and that inspired me to want to keep at the game and want to work at the game.

"So I think that's why Adam Scott's success should be looked at as a whole and not just that's what the men are producing and this is what the women are producing. I think some funding obviously can go to the women.

"I know Golf Australia has changed their system since I've been involved and I think they're doing a great job, but I think if they had the money, that money should be spent on younger kids. I think there's a gap between junior golf and State golf and then to the elite. I think there needs to be something in the middle where girls can aim. Once they've represented their State it's a big jump to representing your country and there's nothing in the middle.

"I think we need something in the middle but we also need someone out there identifying talent, kids that are 10, 11, 12 years old that might play golf as a secondary sport and are really good at netball or something but to encourage them to take the golf path rather than the netball path.

"It all takes money. We've been very lucky with different benefactors and obviously the funding that we're getting but I'd really like to see more and I'd like to see more go to women's golf.

"I think there is a difference between men and women as far as girls staying involved in sport in general. I think they get to a certain age and if they're not encouraged the right way, they don't stay in sport whereas for most boys growing up, being involved in a sport is just a pre-requisite to being a boy and it's not necessarily that for a girl.

"I think that's where it needs to be looked at, trying to keep girls in sport. I did a junior clinic up in Townsville in January and I also saw a junior camp at another course in Townsville, and there were more girls there than boys and I've never seen them before. It's really encouraging but you need them to stay in the game, even if they don't play professionally, even Golf Australia is lacking in funding; we just don't have members in clubs.

"So you want girls and boys to continue playing golf, even if they don't make it a career, that they're members of clubs and paying their dues and all of that stuff. I think that's something that needs to be concentrated on.

"I think Golf Australia are doing a good job at the top level but I think there are different ways to handle women and men and different ways of encouraging players to stay in the game. What I'm saying too, they're going to find athletes at a younger age, like a netball star that plays golf just on the weekends. If we had funding, to have someone out there, you know, North Queensland Golf Association tells golf Queensland that there's this young kid up here, come and take a look.

"You try and encourage that child to stay in golf or take golf as number one and not netball or cricket, or what have you. I think that's where you get the athletes at a younger age and keep them in golf and then that direction."

So what are her thoughts on the Olympics and her possible involvement?

"I think it will be a big deal. It's a big deal for me. I've always been a sports nut and I've always loved the Olympics. So it's not ever something that I ever thought that I'd be a part of and to have the opportunity to is really exciting in itself."

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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