Australian golfer Hannah Green should have been feted in Pennsylvania this weekend as she defended her first major title, the PGA Championship. That experience will have to wait until October with the tournament delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was obviously really excited for 2020 to be able to defend two tournaments (on the LPGA tour)” Green said.
“It’s going to be pretty crazy but as a blessing I get to defend Portland first so I’ll at least have some experience with it not being a major championship.”
The Perth-based 23-year-old is preparing to deal with a range of emotions when that moment comes.
“I’ll definitely be nervous when I hit my first tee shot — I’ll be really excited the whole week,” she said.
“I’ll have a little bit more media than I would’ve done last year so I’ll have to make sure I manage that. Hopefully I can be in this position more often.”
Former professional player and current commentator Alison Whitaker was impressed by Green’s ability to handle the pressure that came with winning a major.
“I think her greatest strength is actually between her ears, she’s not one of those players that’s overly flashy, she can very much exist under the radar in women’s golf,” Whitaker said.
“Expectation comes from winning a major but you actually can’t set them high enough for Hannah — I think the only mistake anyone’s going to be making when they look at her potential is just setting the bar too low.”
Green says her memories of the one stroke win at Hazletine are something of a blur.
When the LPGA tour was placed on hold due to coronavirus, Green took two-and-a-half months off.
“I wanted to make sure that when I do get back to competition golf that I am motivated and that I’m not too tired and stressed out about what I’ve been working on,” Green explained.
Instead of reading greens, she spent her time figuring out jigsaw puzzles.
“I’ve done maybe a dozen puzzles this year but with the space that I have here at home, I can only do a thousand pieces,” she laughed.
“I did get given a 4,000 piece puzzle and I do not think I’ll be able to ever do that, maybe when I get my own place and get a bigger table I can try and accomplish that one.”
There’s also been more time for her to give back to the sport and pass on her golf knowledge.
“I asked if any of the girls wanted to join me playing and everyone pretty much put their hand up so I made a bit of a waiting list, and next week I will have played with nearly all of the junior girls at Mt Lawley [her local club in Perth],” she said.
“Hopefully I have somewhat inspired them, whether they want to become professional like me or just be a really good golfer here in Australia, it’s completely up to them.”
The reigning Greg Norman Medal winner might sound like she’s been on the LPGA tour for 15 years but this year is only her third.
“It’s unbelievable the way Hannah looks at the game and I wonder whether that comes from the fact that she was there five years ago herself,” Whitaker observed.
Green and her boyfriend, fellow golf professional Jarryd Felton, played in a charity event at Mt Lawley last week. Next month they’ll take part in a “Birdies for breast cancer” event in Mandurah, south of Perth.
The couple cherish their time together as they’re usually playing in different parts of the world.
“I think it’s quite tough for anyone in our position to have a relationship while trying to chase their dream and establish themselves,” Green said.
“We’re always looking on apps to see how each other are going if we’re not together.
“It’s just about making sure we’ve got a healthy balance of making sure we’re able to see each other but then go back to work and play some golf.”
The LPGA tour resumes in Ohio next month, but Green will make her comeback in Scotland in August — where she’ll avoid two weeks of quarantine.
“This year’s going to be difficult, it’s actually going to be very interesting to see who comes out and wins and if anyone dominates the back end of the year,” she said.
“I don’t feel like I’ve gotten any worse through this COVID period. I feel like I’ve definitely made some good progress but tournament golf is so different to casual golf.”
Whitaker says Green is part of a “golden generation” for Australian women’s golf — which includes Minjee Lee and Su Oh.
She says the depth of women’s golf has never been stronger but sees no reason why Green can’t win more majors.
“For the next decade I can see Hannah posting easily another handful of wins.
“You look at things like expectations, odds, whatever you call it, she’s always going to be underestimated because she’s not one of those players who hits it 300 yards off the tee,” Whitaker said.
“She’s not the best putter in the game, but she’s notching small gains in every part of her game.
“When you can pragmatically look at your golf game and work out what you need to improve and you slowly commit to keep doing that, then the sky is the limit.”