Coaching from greats essential to develop youngsters' careers
Karrie Webb. Photo: Getty Images
VETERAN Australian golfers Lindsey Wright and Karen Lunn believe young players need to be mentored by former stars as Karrie Webb continues to fight a lone battle in the world rankings.
Lunn admitted it is a concern the country's next generation has struggled to consistently challenge the world's best players, and take pressure off the seven-time major champion.
World No. 17 Webb, one of the major drawcards for next month's Australian Open at Royal Canberra, is the only Australian currently ranked in the top 50.
Lindsey Wright. Photo: Richard Briggs
Just two of her compatriots, Katherine Hull (No. 67) and Wright (No. 81) are ranked in the top 100, and 1993 British Open winner Lunn said youngsters would learn plenty from the experiences of former players.
''Shani Waugh is mentoring the players coming through the amateur ranks, which is a great move, but it's the transition from amateur to professional ranks which is the tough bit,'' Lunn said.
''Golf Australia have a program where they sponsor a few girls a year and they get a fair whack of cash to push them in the right direction, which is great, but it's not just throwing money at people which is the answer, it's giving them the right tools and skills to be the best they can.
Karen Lunn. Photo: Gary Schafer
''Apart from Shani it's basically all men that's involved in coaching. I think they need to get more ex-players involved, and when I've finished playing I'd love to be involved at some level.
''I'm sure all these guys are fantastic golf coaches but women are different to men, our brains work differently and we function differently.
''That's probably one boat they're missing out on. They need to get ex-players involved. How can you tell someone how to prepare for a golf tournament when they've never played in one?''
Wright, who suffers from clinical depression, still gets homesick and said handling the constant travelling is a major factor for young Australians.
''The younger kids now, maybe we can start a mentoring program where they can utilise us,'' Wright said. ''Don't get me wrong, technical coaches are great and they're needed, but they haven't stood over a five-foot putt for $5000, which will give them money for their plane ticket for the next tournament.
''They don't really understand the pressure and nerves, and you're only going to get that from players who have been there and done that.''
She said they can find the prospect daunting of competing with the Asian contingent dominating the women's game.
''One thing the Asian culture has proven is they work bloody hard, they work a lot harder than most of the younger [Australian] players, that's for sure,'' she said.
''It's even harder today for the young girls because you've got these Korean girls with more money, and they've got an entourage doing everything for them.
''If you dig deep and suck it up, the reward is pretty awesome.''
Lunn highlighted Victorian Stacey Keating as the player most capable of claiming Webb's mantle.
The 26-year-old world No. 120 won twice on the European Tour this year, and Lunn said she has the skill set and mental strength to go to the next level.
■ WOMEN'S AUSTRALIAN OPEN
February 14-17, Royal Canberra Golf Club.