U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S AMATEUR
On First USA Foray, Ireland’s Webb Feeling Right at Home
August 26, 2019 | Cedar Rapids, Iowa
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Laura Webb is competing in her first USGA championship – indeed, she is playing golf for the first time in the USA – but she is feeling very much at home. Webb, 52, of the Republic of Ireland, entered the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at the recommendation of a friend from Spain, Macarena Campomanes, who first competed in this championship in 2016 at Wellesley (Mass.) Country Club. When Webb arrived at Cedar Rapids Country Club, she was taken under the wing of 2017 champion Judith Kyrinis, of Canada, who had a mutual friend from Ireland.
“It was nice to have a friendly face from the get-go,” said Webb, whose husband, Peter, is serving as her caddie. “I played practice rounds with Judith, which was fabulous. It was great to meet someone who has obviously done really well in this.”
Webb is off to a strong debut, having shot matching rounds of 2-over-par 74 to earn the No. 7 seed for match play. She went on defeat 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team captain Noreen Mohler, of Bethlehem, Pa., 5 and 4, in the Round of 64 on Monday.
Webb’s early success ought not to surprise anyone. She is a two-time winner of the British Senior Women’s Amateur, in 2016 and 2018, and she is the only player who has ever swept Ireland’s Girls, Women’s and Senior Women’s Amateur titles. Earning an exemption into this week’s field of 132 players made the decision easier to travel some 4,000 miles from her home in Berkshire, England, to Iowa.
“It’s fabulous to be here, and the only way I’m here is because I have an exemption in,” said Webb, whose victory in the British Senior Women’s at Crail in Scotland last September earned her a spot. “The USGA notified me via an email invite. I think that opening up a line of exemptions is great for the rest of the world be able to experience this.”
The exemption dovetails with Webb’s decision to take some time away from work to focus on golf “while I am still a little bit competitive,” as she put it. Webb played in three events in Europe for the first time this year: the Portuguese, Spanish and European women’s senior championships, and she was selected for the Irish team for the European Senior Ladies’ Team Championship in Bulgaria Sept. 3-7.
“Hopefully, I will play in the Home Internationals for Ireland as well at the beginning of October,” said Webb. “Before this year, I probably would have only played in county competitions and perhaps some regional matches, other than the Irish and British Seniors.”
Webb is enjoying her first foray in American golf, though she is finding a few adjustments are in order.
“The main difference compared to courses I would play in the UK is the speed of the greens,” she said. “It’s not often we would have greens quite so slick. The other thing that’s most noticeable is the rough close to the greens; we wouldn’t have it quite so thick. You have to think more about the shots you’re playing around the greens, which is good.”
Webb was born Laura Bolton in Larne, County Antrim in Northern Ireland, and she grew up playing Cairndhu Golf Club there, with occasional visits to nearby Royal Portrush, which hosted the 2019 Open Championship won by Shane Lowry. The Golfing Union of Ireland encompasses both the six counties of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and by age 12, Webb was competing in regional and national events for her age group. She won the Irish Girls Championship in 1979 at age 16, the Women’s Championship in 1988 and 1994, and the Senior Women’s in 2014.
“That was a bit of news to me when it was announced,” said Webb of her unprecedented Irish “triple.” Webb went to Newcastle College in northeast England and she stayed in England for work, first as an engineer and later a project manager. Ever since her children Gavin, now 25, and Rebecca, now 22, were toddlers the family has taken occasional holidays that centered around Webb’s golf events.
“Having always worked in England, it’s tough to travel back and forth,” said Webb. “But if I get the opportunity, I’d like to play in the Irish Women’s Amateur and see if I can still compete against the youngsters – and not get worried about the fact that they’re hitting it 50 yards past me.”
This week, Webb needn’t concern herself with that. She is making herself at home in Iowa among her senior peers.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing senior golf; the sport is brilliant to allow you to still be competing,” said Webb. “The golf I play in Europe is all really competitive but friendly, and I think that’s fantastic.”
In a few weeks, she will defend her title in the British Senior Women’s Amateur at Royal St. David’s in Wales. Next year, that championship and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur will run concurrently, as the 2020 USGA event will be contested in mid-September at the Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Ala. Should she make a nice run here and guarantee herself another exemption for 2020, she might have to make a hard choice.
“It’s potentially a bit disappointing but that’s just the way it is,” said Webb. “I’m going to play in the British this year and see what happens there. It would be a fabulous problem to have.”
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.