Hannah Green – Journey
Hannah Green’s meteoric journey from a young kid picking up her first golf club in the Perth hills a decade ago to LPGA Tour professional in the United States is as endearing as it is spectacular.
Green claimed worldwide recognition in 2017 following a stunning rookie year which culminated in her being named the Symetra Rookie of the Year and, most significantly, earning a place among the elite of world women’s golf on the LPGA Tour.
For those who have seen Green swing a club it probably came as little surprise. For those who have been lucky enough to meet her it was confirmation that good things happen to good people.
Green has established herself as a universally liked young role model in the sport, not just for her actions on the course, but also for what she has done off it.
When Green returned to Perth for a much-earned break during her hectic 2017 she still found time to help teach the juniors at her home club at Mount Lawley and give back to a game that has enriched her young life.
And when GolfWA asked her to speak about her journey, which started as a young girl following her dad around Hillview Gold Course in Kalamunda, to provide an insight for young players looking to get into the game she was also just as willing to oblige.
In the illuminating interview below Hannah provides a genuine insight into the benefits of playing golf at a young age while revealing everything from overcoming the nervousness of learning the game to the long-lasting friendships, and life-long lessons, that have helped cast her into the impressive young woman she is today.
It is a must-read account for any young players, and their parents, who want to take up the sport or who are already involved in it. It covers everything from the benefits Hannah got from simply enjoying the sport as a recreation in her younger days to the support she received from GolfWA and Golf Australia after she decided to take up the competitive elements of the game before deciding she wanted to play golf professionally at the age of 15.
Q: Congratulations on a hugely successful first season as a professional. It must seem like an age ago that you first starting playing golf. How did you first get into the sport?
HG: “My dad is the golfer in the family and he has been playing for probably 25 years. He plays at Hillview with his social club and I guess I was just tagging along on a Sunday as most girls do. I started doing junior clinics when I was there and I did that for about a year before I decided that I wanted to become a member of a private club and so I joined Hartfield.
“I played Sunday comp there. I have to admit I was not completely into it at the stage but I did play some Graham Marsh Junior Tour stuff and met a couple of girls my age. That got me started and then I wanted to play with more girls my age so I went to Mount Lawley Golf Club after Shirley Reynolds, Sue Thomson and Shonna Gobby all helped me with my membership there.
“Now they have so many junior girls at the golf club which is awesome.”
Q: Why did you choose golf over other sports?
“I always did individual sports. I was playing tennis and doing swimming and, I don’t know why, but I decided I didn’t really want to do those any more. I thought well I’m not too bad at golf so I just tried to get better at that. I was all right at tennis and swimming but I guess I was just competitive. I was just better at golf.
“With swimming you can always test yourself but always against others. I think golf was fun because I was always trying to beat my own personal records.
“I could also play with dad as well which was pretty cool. We wanted to do something as a family and dad and I got to play while mum would caddy for me. She used to do the tallies and stuff. It was a good way for us to spend time together because she’s not really a sporty person as well so I thought it was pretty cool.”
Q: One part of golf that no-one can escape is that nervousness on the first tee – the thought of everyone watching you. You must have had that at some stage and how did you overcome it?
“I was definitely nervous just like everyone else when I started. I mostly played with girls a bit older than me at first and I remember being a bit uncomfortable and worried about how I was playing. To be honest I might have even stopped playing at that stage.
“The key was playing with girls my own age at Mount Lawley because not only were they as good as me but also it was more fun. After a while we got to know each other and we would just talk while we walked around while playing sport.
“When I come back to Perth now it’s great to see so many junior golfers and girls of the same age playing together and they’re comfortable playing together. That’s something I immediately think back to and all those girls are still good friends of mine. Some of them stopped playing golf but we’ll always be friends because we got that chance to have fun walking around the course. I guess golf is pretty cool to let you do that.”
Q: Golf is not a sport that people readily think of as something you can just start up and be good at. As a kid how were you introduced into the sport and how did that ease you into it?
“We played a lot of five-hole and nine-hole golf like they have with the Smarter Than Smoking Junior Tour now. Like I said I remember that as being a fun morning. I can’t even remember what I shot – it was probably horrible. But I’ve always been competitive so I liked that part of it and as a kid you love winning and winning prizes. You could come last place and still get a prize. I always thought that was a good motivation.”
Q: Looking back now what do you think was the greatest benefit of playing golf as a young age?
“The friendships were the best thing for me but I really liked the fact I could play with dad. You don’t get that in other sports and I’d play with people that were 10-times my age. I think that has helped me to be confident speaking to older people now, which has been a big help.
“If I didn’t play golf I don’t think that I would be confident enough to talk to someone that is 40-50 years old and have a good conversation. It gives you people skills – whether it’s just at your local club or like for me this year when I’ve been away and speaking to new people.”
Q: So once you’ve started playing the game and you’re having fun with your friends you started to realise that you weren’t too bad at this sport! You were still young at this age so what was the next step to take on the competitive pathway?
“I went on a Graham Marsh Junior Golf Foundation camp in 2010 and I played in all the events around that – stuff like the five-hole events and nine-hole events which was a great introduction to the sport. I then I got picked for my first State team and played at the Aussie Junior and I guess that’s where I saw how many girls who were doing the same sort of thing as me. I thought: “Okay, gosh. I can do this like all these other girls’. It opened my eyes up to competitive possibilities of the game.”
Q: It was around that time that the GolfWA High Performance Programme was altered into the system that we see now. The Graham Marsh Foundation, which did a lot of good work, was streamlined into the tiered GolfWA HP pathway. You went into Tier Two of the current format and started representing WA with the likes of Minjee Lee and Whitney Hillier who are professionals now. Tell us about what it was like to play in your first State team?
“My first State team was in 2011 with the junior girls at Newcastle Golf Club and I was so unbelievably scared! I was so intimidated. I was 13 or 14 years old and that was my first time playing Aussie junior. I shot mid-80s every round but made the cut.
“I was so intimidated – I literally knew on-one from the other teams and that was when Minjee, Whitney Harvey was still playing; Sue Oh and all the good players were playing and I was like ‘whoa, these girls are good’. I mean I loved it – it was awesome. I remember in my last match I was five down with five to play and I ended up tying, but I was so nervous. It was really cool.
“I loved the team atmosphere. I’ve always loved it. I wish there was something you could do for professional sport, but it’s never going to happen for Australians. It was one of the best weeks. That team was awesome we had so much fun.”
Q: You had a lot of success for WA in that ‘golden era’ playing in two women’s Interstate Series titles – in 2012 and 2014. You always enjoyed representing WA didn’t you?
“I always loved the team concept. It was great to play as a team and with your friends. The first time I was in a winning team was in Adelaide in 2012. I missed the year before when they won in WA. It was a great team. We had Minjee (Lee), Whitney Hillier, Whitney Harvey, Alyssa (Keir) and Hayley Bettencourt. That was awesome, so much fun and then we won it again a couple of years later so that was great.”
Q: While you were starting to have success on the course that was an important period of your life off it as well in terms of your school studies because you were entering Year 10. That’s a time you have to make some important decisions about what you wanted to do with your life and what you want to study. How did you balance that with golf and what support did you get to help make your decision?
“If I didn’t make the WA squad then I most probably would have done ATAR and then golf would have been more like ‘ohh maybe I can play golf’. It would have been different for my studies. I was about 15 when I decided that I wanted to play golf as a professional but I wouldn’t have made that decision with the support of the programmes I was in.
“I was lucky that I was at Como Secondary High School which has a golf academy so that helps steer your decision – with studying still a big part of that – but at that stage if I wasn’t in State teams, and getting the financial support from GolfWA, then I wouldn’t have decided to go down the golf path I don’t think.
“That made me and my family feel more confident about the decisions we were making. We knew we had financial support from GolfWA and Golf Australia to allow me to follow that pathway.”
Q: What did the GolfWA HP programme provide that help make that decision?
“Studying was still a major priority and the good thing about the programme is it lets you concentrate on school without worrying about the other stuff that might distract you. The financial help was obviously the main part of that because it allows you to do things outside of school to help you develop your golf game.
“I saw (personal trainer) John Polley and I also saw a fitness instructor. I now still work with (West Coast Eagles strength and conditioning coach) Jordan Stares so I guess I got introduced to that which I really enjoyed. I worked with Ritchie Smith as coach before he got the national job and WA job so I was really lucky.
“I also got selected to play tournaments over east and had some funding. I went to the US in around 2013 and played my first US Junior at Torrey Pines. That’s when I was like I really want to travel and play golf. I was about 15 at the time and that’s the time when I knew I wanted to play golf professionally and had the support to do it.”
Q: What was it like playing at Torrey Pines at such a young age?
“It was awesome. It was my first time to the US as well and I went straight to Torrey Pines which was cool. I travelled with my mum but I did get sent with Golf Australia so I got some funding from them which they still provide. It was an amazing experience.”
Q: The final stage of your progression as an amateur arrived when you reached Tier One. What did that provide and how did it help prepare you to become a professional and embark on that remarkable first rookie year?
“By the time I had reached Tier One I had graduated high school. I was able to play a bit more during the year and not having to worry about missing classes. I pretty much played nearly every tournament on the calendar that I could because I had the funding to do it.
“Luckily I got sent away on teams and Golf Australia helped me out with money which helped me because then I could use Golf WA’s financial support elsewhere. I see now all the expenses that I have to pay as a professional – I’m sure every other professional could tell you that they wouldn’t have known how much GolfWA spend on you! I’ll pay for something now and I’m like ‘whoah I did not expect that!’
“So having GolfWA’s support has been a massive help. It’s something I’ve especially noticed since being in the US because they don’t have these high performance type of things – everyone pays for everything by themselves. You can’t get sponsorships when you’re over there. You’re not supposed to get club sponsorships and there’s no state funding.
“There’s nothing like GolfWA so everyone pays everything out of their own pocket which I just think is crazy. I really don’t know if golf would have continued for me if it was like that here so I feel thankful to the GolfWA and Golf Australia pathways for providing the support to help me get to this point in my career.”
Q: The decision to turn professional, and when the best time is to leave that support is always tough for any golfer. How did you come to that decision and who did you speak to about it?
“Talking to people around the system about when to turn professional was important. Just to have someone else’s opinion and the opinion of people you trust and who you know want the best for you is obviously an important thing. It’s not that they tell me what to do but just to see what their opinion was and see whether they thought it was too late for me to turn professional or too early.
“I think it was pretty good timing because Minjee (Lee) and Su (Oh) turned professional and they were always my biggest competition when I was an amateur and I felt like I excelled because they were such good players. I felt like if I had not of turned professional this year that I wouldn’t have had the same competition in amateur so the time worked out well for me.”
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