This is an article from the March 13, 2000 issue
KARRIE WEBB as Herself
ROB WEBB as Her Father
EVELYN WEBB as Her Mother
KELVIN HALLER as Her Coach
TODD HALLER as Her Former Fiance
ANNIKA SORENSTAM as Her Rival
SCREENPLAY BY ALAN SHIPNUCK
A SUGARCANE FIELD--DAY: The cane ripples in the wind, like swells
at sea, stretching eight, 10, 12 feet toward a blinding sun. The
camera pulls back to reveal a tiny island of activity amidst the
endless fields, the small hamlet of Ayr, in north Queensland,
Australia. We pan down the town's main drag, Queen Street. From
the look of the cars, it is clearly the late 1950s. It is a
Sunday afternoon, the one day of the week when the farmers come
to town, and a crowd is growing in front of the Delta Theatre.
The marquee is understated. Only the ornate carvings in the beams
framing the silver screen hint at any sort of Hollywood grandeur.
Standing in the ticket line, clutching his mother's hand, is
young ROB WEBB, turned out in his Sunday best. From the look on
his face, he is delighted to be making his weekly pilgrimage to
the movies. Rob pays no attention to the little girl in line
behind him, EVELYN COLLINSON, who also squeezes a mother's hand.
In a town like Ayr, dreams are hard to come by. That's what the
movies are for.
DISSOLVE TO: The familiar silhouette of the Delta's facade looks
down upon Queen Street, though the marquee has been replaced by
sheets of rusting corrugated metal adorned with the faded
lettering of a Chinese restaurant and a clothing store, both long
gone. The former expanse of the Delta's lobby has been carved
into two vacant storefronts. Splashed across a grungy window is a
banner: PUBLIC AUCTION DEC. 17, 1999.
CUT TO THE ABANDONED CHINESE RESTAURANT--DAY: Rob and Evelyn Webb,
27 years into their marriage, sit impassively, holding hands. Rob
has the callused paws and meaty forearms of a carpenter. Evelyn
is hardly dainty, a swimmer and crackerjack water-skier. Around
them the room is abuzz with the anticipation of the impending
auction. Evelyn holds a cell phone to her ear. On the other end
of the connection is her daughter KARRIE, 25, calling from her
home in Boynton Beach, Fla. She is coming off one of the greatest
seasons in LPGA history, during which she won a record
$1,591,959. Her parents are representing her in the bidding. The
auction begins, and with one other serious bidder present, the
price on the 15,952-square-foot lot quickly zooms upward--200,000,
250,000, 300,000 Australian dollars (one Australian dollar equals
.61 U.S. dollars). Evelyn talks a mile a minute into the phone.
At $330,000 she gingerly raises her hand. The other bidder pushes
the price to $340,000. Karrie chimes in from the other side of
the world. Evelyn pushes the bid to $350,000. The room freezes,
the gavel slams. The Webbs' real estate agent, Harry Burbidge,
jumps to embrace them.
BURBIDGE (VOICE-OVER): "Karrie has always been the favorite
daughter of Ayr. When she comes home, she's just Karrie. She is a
private person, and that's respected by one and all, but everyone
in town is so excited about her plans to restore the old Delta
Theatre. It's really the first time she has reached out to the
community. I can tell you, the refurbishment of the theater is
going to be very good for the local economy. It's thought to be a
$1.2 million (U.S.) project. From what I understand there are
going to be state-of-the-art systems for sound and projection. It
might not sound like an exciting development to the outside
world, but it is here in Ayr, where the nearest movie theater is
an hour away. Without a good movie theater, the only excitement
in these parts is waiting for Karrie to win another tournament."
CUT TO: A DRIVE-IN MOVIE COMPLEX CIRCA 1989--DAY: A tight shot of
the blinding- white plywood screen, then the camera pulls back to
reveal an expansive parking lot, empty save for the rusted poles
on which idle speakers hang. The silence is broken by the sound
of a golf ball skipping across the baked pavement, pinballing off
the poles. The camera pulls back farther to reveal a young golfer
at the far end of the lot hitting from a patch of turf, and her
coach, KELVIN HALLER, looking on. The grass is an extension of
Haller's backyard, which borders the drive-in. Haller is in his
mid 30s, the greenkeeper at Ayr Golf Club and one of the area's
best players. In a couple of years he will suffer a stroke while
playing the course's 4th hole, confining him to a wheelchair. For
now, he stands behind young Karrie, a little pixie who's all
blonde ponytail and dogged concentration. We watch as she sends
ball after ball screaming into the parking lot.
HALLER (VOICE-OVER): "My parents ran a news agency on Queen
Street. I worked there some growing up and spent most of the time
reading the golf magazines. Next door was a toy shop owned by
Karrie's grandparents, MICK and JOY COLLINSON. The families were
friendly. When Karrie became interested in golf, someone
suggested I teach her the game. She was my first student. I knew
pretty quick she was special. She was an athletic girl, strong
for her size. But what made her special was determination,
determination, determination. She could hit balls all day, even
in that sun. Of course, it wasn't just hitting balls. It was
picking 'em up, too."
CUT TO THE AYR GOLF CLUB--DUSK: The modest white clubhouse looms
over Edwards Street, just outside the center of town. Ayr State
High ("Preparing responsible, informed and valued citizens") is
down the road, separated only by an expansive athletic field.
The house that Karrie grew up in, a modest green-and-yellow
five-bedroom Queenslander at 85 Norham Road, is two blocks away.
The camera wanders across the gently rolling course until it
finds Webb, playing with her favorite adversaries, Haller's
nephews, RYAN and TODD HALLER. Webb is still in her teens, but
already she will play only with the best male golfers and only
from the back tees, from which the course measures 6,452 yards
and plays to a par of 71. Ryan is on the way to a career, albeit
a middling one, as a touring pro, but it is Todd who seems to
have captured Karrie's fancy. Between brilliant shotmaking (Todd
plays off a three handicap) they flirt like mad. By the time
Karrie turns pro in October 1994, they will be engaged. For now
they play on into the sunset.
CUT TO PINE NEEDLES LODGE AND GOLF CLUB, OUTSIDE PINEHURST,
N.C.--DAY: It is Friday of the 1996 U.S. Open, the biggest
tournament of Webb's rookie year on the LPGA tour. She has
already made a stunning debut in the States, finishing second in
her first tournament and first in her second. Shortly thereafter,
she won again, at one of the LPGA's top events, the Titleholders.
Alas, there was trouble in paradise. At the Titleholders her
caddie-fiance, Haller, said of his duality, "Oh, god, it's the
hardest thing I've ever done. There's an incredible strain on the
relationship. We try to leave the game on the course, but she's
got to let off steam at someone." Three weeks before the Open, in
Japan, Haller abandoned Webb in mid-tournament. The following
week he wasn't on the bag at all, and Webb finished 75th, the
worst showing of her nascent LPGA career. Now she has just
finished the second round at the Open and is staring down the gun
barrel of the golfing press.
WEBB (SURROUNDED BY MICROPHONES, AND GROWING FLUSTERED): "I've
answered a lot of questions this year. My personal life is my
personal life." Despite her protestations, the questions
continue. A tear forms. Then another. And another. The reporters
have done what no golf course ever has--made Karrie Webb cry.
CUT TO A BUSTLING PRESS ROOM IN EARLY 2000--DAY: BERNIE PRAMBERG
of the The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, slouches in front of his
laptop. One of Australia's leading golf writers and a
Queenslander himself, he has been writing about Webb since she
was a promising preteen.
PRAMBERG: "The thing you've got to remember, mate, is that Karrie
is a country girl. Meeting strangers, talking in front of
crowds--that's not the kind of thing any country girl is going to
be comfortable with. When Karrie came up, she might have been a
little wary of strangers, but if she knew you, she could be a lot
of fun. Everything changed after the breakup with her caddie.
[Haller is now married to a doctor and working as an insurance
broker.] I don't think any of us will ever fully understand how
scarred she was. A lot of speculation and innuendo got printed
here in Australia. I think Karrie decided after that she was
never going to open herself up to that kind of scrutiny. Can you
blame her, mate?"
CUT TO A GRAND BALLROOM IN THE BREAKERS HOTEL, PALM BEACH,
FLA.--NIGHT: Seven hundred guests have forked over $1,000 a plate
for a black-tie gala celebrating the LPGA's 50th anniversary. The
bash, which doubles as the annual awards dinner, is held three
days before the start of the Office Depot, the 2000
season-opener. So many who have sacrificed so much for the
LPGA--Patty Berg, Betty Jameson and Louise Suggs among them--are on
hand, but it is Webb, coming off a year in which she won six
times and set an alltime scoring record (69.43), who is the
featured attraction. Webb is called to the stage to pick up her
hardware. She wears a sexy black-sequined dress. Her golden hair
is expertly coiffed. She looks glamorous, beautiful even, a far
cry from her dour on-course persona. It is a small thing, this
metamorphosis, but not insignificant. Having been ripped so often
for shunning the spotlight, Webb seems, for the first time,
comfortable under the klieg lights, selling herself and her
CUT TO IBIS GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB--DAY: It is the first round of
the Office Depot. In the pro-am format Webb has taken both her
parents as partners. Her younger sister Katie caddies for Evelyn.
Her uncle Garry Annand caddies for Rob. Mick and Joy; Karrie's
other sister, Janelle; an aunt and three cousins make up a
boisterous gallery. The entire Webb clan is staying at Karrie's
new house on the Intercoastal waterway, the one decorated with
Australian arts and crafts, with the boat and Jet Skis out back.
Karrie is as relaxed as she has ever been on a golf course. Every
time one of her parents hits a good shot, she slips into the
voice of her screen idol, Austin Powers, and squeals, "Yeah,
baby!" The Spy Who Shagged Me is indicative of the high-brow fare
Karrie enjoys. Her parents have passed on their love of the
movies, if not their good taste. Following the first round Webb
is ringed by reporters. She is confident, funny even. She has
never seemed more herself--a country girl surrounded by her large
and loving family.
KARRIE: "I wasn't nervous at all. I was more worried about how
stressed out they would be. In fact, on the front nine I
struggled a couple of times with my concentration." That would be
the same front nine on which Webb shot a five-under-par 31. Her
65 leads the tournament.
CUT TO THE PRESS ROOM IN THE IBIS CLUBHOUSE--DAY: Three rounds
have been played at the Office Depot, and Webb's lead is seven
shots. Leaning against the wall is an exhausted JULI INKSTER. She
has just finished playing in winds that have been gusting to 40
INKSTER: "Karrie doesn't just want to win, she wants to beat you.
That's a different thing entirely. But she goes about it in the
right way. She's very gracious. Last year at the Tour
Championship she came up to me and said, 'As far as player of the
year, I think we both deserve it. I want you to know that I
respect you as a player and a person.' How cool was that? She
plays with such controlled power, such beauty and grace. I love
watching her play, even when she's beating my brains out."
DISSOLVE TO AN IMAGE OF WEBB SWINGING: The camera pulls back to
reveal KELVIN HALLER's computer room. He is studying Webb's
swing, fed by digital film she has had shot on the driving range
and then uploaded to him Down Under. It is early February 2000,
and Webb has just been home for a tune-up in advance of the
Australian Open and Australian Ladies Masters.
HALLER (VOICE-OVER): "This is video taken a year ago. Notice the
path of the club on the way back. You see how laid off it is?
That would lead to blocks. Now look at this swing. It's the new
one. Watch the path of the club. On plane, square to the target
line the whole way. Perfect. Last year Karrie went to the
cross-handed putting stroke and won six times. This year she has
improved her swing significantly. She is only going to get better
and better. You'll see."
DISSOLVE TO A LIVING ROOM--DAY: Another image of Karrie swinging,
this one frozen in time. The camera pulls back to reveal the home
page of golfweb.com. Rob and Evelyn are reading a recap of
Karrie's victory at last week's Takefuji Classic, on the big
island of Hawaii. Haller's clairvoyance is eerie. Webb had gone
on to sweep the two tournaments in Australia, and her win last
Saturday was her fourth in as many tries in 2000. The Aussie Open
is not an LPGA event, so officially Webb's winning streak is at
three, the first LPGA player to pull off the hat trick since
JoAnne Carner in 1982. Nancy Lopez's alltime record of five
consecutive victories is on the horizon. The win at Takefuji was
all the sweeter because it came at the expense of ANNIKA
SORENSTAM, once presumed to be Webb's rival, now merely her
doormat. Webb's victory pushed her career total to an astonishing
19--or one more than Sorenstam's. Rob and Evelyn can't help but
smile when they get to the part about Karrie birdieing the first
playoff hole (just as at the end of regulation, she had gone for
the green of the tricky par-5 18th hole in two, while Sorenstam
laid up). They turn off the computer. Rob leaves for work.
CUT TO THE OLD DELTA THEATRE--DAY: The rebuilding of the Delta is
under way. The recent demolition has revealed the ribs of the old
theater--swooping wooden beams, a few with their carvings still
visible. Fresh building materials are stacked chest-high
throughout the gutted interior. The theater will take Evelyn and
Rob into a working retirement, as they plan to run it themselves,
collecting tickets, buttering the popcorn and even running the
projectors. The Webbs hope to be open for business before the
year is out. There is much work to be done, and Rob, a contractor
and builder, is going to do a lot of it himself. The camera pulls
back, leaving Rob alone in the old Delta. We travel down Queen
Street, all the way to the outskirts of town. There we find the
larger-than-life form of Karrie Webb, reflective shades and all.
She has not been projected onto a movie screen, but she is a star
nonetheless. Webb looks down from a billboard advertising the Ayr
Golf Club. PLAY WHERE CHAMPIONS PLAY IT SAYS. The camera pulls
back farther and farther, until Ayr is swallowed up by the
endless fields of sugarcane. The cane sways in the wind, just as
it always has, just as it always will.