Hannah Green: Australia's latest world-beating sportswoman | Rod Morri

The 22-year-old has seemingly come from nowhere but to those in the know her first win – at a major nonetheless – came as no surprise

Prior to that incredibly pressure-packed five-foot putt putt on the final green at Hazeltine Golf Club, Hannah Green was a virtual unknown outside golf circles. In fact even within the golf world – beyond Australian shores – she was hardly recognisable to most, a fact confirmed by the lack of even a Wikipedia page devoted to her career.

That has since been corrected, but for those who follow the game closely in this part of the world Green has been a known entity since her teenage years.

In the mainstream media it is fellow Western Australian Minjee Lee who receives the bulk of the golf spotlight. And that’s as it should be as Lee – a rare natural talent and more physically gifted golfer than Green – is already a five-time winner at the top level and seems destined to win multiple important championships.

Their paths to the top echelons of golf have differed greatly, Lee easily meeting qualifying criteria as soon as she joined the pay-for-play ranks in 2014, while Green’s journey was more circuitous.

With no status to play the LPGA after turning pro in 2016, she made the difficult decision to commit to a full year on the much less lucrative secondary Symetra Tour.

The top 15 money earners on that Tour – and any player who wins three times in a single season – are given access to the main circuit the following year. It’s a difficult road to tread financially and emotionally but Green determined that was her best chance to advance her career and so signed on.

As it turned out, the decision paid dividends. She won three times and finished in the top 15 of the money list to book a rookie season on the LPGA Tour in 2018.

She did little to attract attention but enough to keep her card her first year out – the main aim of every professional golfer at the start of every season – and was on a similar trajectory in 2019. Until this past week.

To say Green’s win was a surprise in no way disparages the 22-year-old or her talents. It simply acknowledges the harsh truth of top flight professional golf which is that even the very best spend a lot more time losing than winning.

For a player ranked outside the top 100 in the world (Green was 114 at the start of the week) to outplay the current world No 1 and a host of other previous major winners over 72 holes is, mathematically, unlikely.

It is why her win is being hailed as such an achievement, particularly outside Australia where few, if any, knew her name before today. The victory is also testament to an inner fortitude that might be almost as important as physical talent at the highest levels of the game.

Those who have experienced it say there is no pressure as stifling as the final nine holes of a major championship with a chance to win.

Green stood up to every imaginable test in Minnesota, including nursing a significant lead – not as easy as it sounds – and weathering a patch of poor play mid round. Add in the pressure from the world class field lined up behind her and the scope of her accomplishment begins to come into focus.

Only two other Australian women have ever claimed a golf major: Jan Stephenson won three and the legendary Karrie Webb seven.

Hannah Green – unknown to many at the start of the week but the name on everybody’s list at the end of it – now becomes the third Australian major winner. It suggests hers is a name you should commit to memory. Chances are, you will be hearing a lot more of it in the future.

Contributor

Rod Morri

The GuardianTramp

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