By Lewine Mair
British fans will have their eyes and hopes set on Charley Hull at this year’s Ricoh Women’s Open, but this won’t faze the young English player as she takes every step in her stride.
What can we expect of the now 21-year-old Charley Hull when it comes to the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns? When she had a round there in April, the wind was feisty and she could have done with an extra sweater or two. However, you could see from the glint in her eye that she meant what she said when she announced, “It’s my type of course - I can’t wait.”
Hull is a bit different from the norm and that’s no bad thing. Laura Davies was different and so, too, was the legendary Joyce Wethered. All three played golf with boys in their formative years- Davies and Wethered with an older brother and Charley with friends at Kettering and Woburn.
Though Davies competed in a variety of women’s events, neither Wethered nor Hull conformed to quite the same degree. Wethered was always being hounded by officialdom to take out her handicap cards, while Charley had little or no idea of what was expected of her in the amateur arena.
Nothing, perhaps, captured the situation better than what happened when she played in the 2012 Curtis Cup at Nairn...Tegwen Matthews, the captain of that winning GB&I side, was mesmerised by the teenager.
When, for instance, she was checking that her players were well-versed in the finer details of foursomes. Charley asked entirely enough questions to suggest that she did not know the first thing about them. Matthews realised as much in the nick of time and, quite rightly, left her on the sidelines for that format.
No more did Charley know too much about how to interact with a partner in fourballs - a format in which she and Pamela Pretswell lost out to Amy Anderson and Emily Tubert by 4&3 on the first day. However, when it came to the singles, the teenager was absurdly brilliant, winning way out in the country against Lindy Duncan on an afternoon when so much else was so tight.
She would pull off a similar singles result in her first appearance in the Solheim Cup the following year in Colorado when she played none other than Paula Creamer.
It was a lovely match for Hull and a thrilling contest for spectators. But it was hardly such a fascinating prospect for Creamer who could see that Hull had
much the same super-abundance of confidence as she had had at the same age.
Hull won by 5&4 before asking her opponent if she would sign her ball for a friend at home. Creamer was at once aghast and amused - as, indeed, was everyone else.
Charley loves most of the courses she plays in America where she has won in excess of $1.5 million since joining the LPGA Tour in 2015. What she likes less, though, is the business of being away from home: “I love England and I love my home. I’ll never base myself anywhere else.”
When, last year, she lashed out on a flat, she very quickly decided that that, too, was “too far from home”, even if it was only a few miles from the family house in Kettering. Indeed, barely had she moved in than she moved out, going back to live with her parents. Not, mind you, that the flat will be lying empty for long. She plans to let it out before buying a couple more and doing the same again. And should she want to upgrade the properties, she will know that her father, Dave, who was in the business of building and designing houses for years, will be keen to help.
Though plenty of players make very good friendships once they are out on tour, Charley prefers to keep herself to herself.
When, for example, she is asked about other LPGA players, she will often not be entirely sure who those players are. “I don’t know too much of what’s going on,” she explains cheerfully.
Dave has never at any stage discouraged his daughter’s mix of playing hard and working hard, his feeling being that if she concentrated exclusively on her golf, she wouldn’t love the game half as much as she does.
He used to chaperone her to tournaments in her early days in America but when, in 2015, he suffered a detached retina and was advised not to travel by plane for a while, Charley started to head off on her own. And when one good result followed hard on the heels of another, she realised that she was able to cope. “From now on,” she said to her dad, “Just come with me when you want to. It’s not just that I’m OK on my own, it’s that I know my swing well enough to be able to put it right.”
Charley is very much her father’s daughter in that he is no more your average golfing father than she is the average golfing girl. Dave has spent years ferrying her to and from the airport and to her daily practice sessions at Woburn. He will watch her practise if that is what she wants but, if she is at ease with the way
she is playing, he will walk his dog, Esme.
Intriguingly, it is not Charley who necessarily comes first. A few weeks ago, when I asked if he would be at the Ricoh and the Solheim Cup this summer, he said that with the events so close together, it had to be one or the other.
“Why’s that?” I persevered. “I can’t,” he explained, “leave Esme for two weeks. She needs her walks.”
Typically, that’s fine with Charley.
The above is an extract from the latest issue of Women & Golf magazine, on sale now. Never miss an issue click here to subscribe and enjoy W&G delivered to your door.