The making of a major champion
“I always had two goals – one to get into the Solheim Cup and the second to win the British Open. Making the team is the highest achievement by a mile. Apart from if I win the British Open, then that will always be the highest honour of my career.”
This was Georgia Hall speaking to Lady Golfer ahead of her Solheim debut last year.
Twelve months on, at the age of just 22, she has ticked off both her goals.
The Bournemouth youngster might have looked cool and comfortable coming down Lytham’s fearsome closing stretch but, to put the enormity of this into some sort of context, this was just the fifth British winner of a major and the third home champion since the Women’s British Open became a major in 2001 – Karen Stupples was the first in 2004, Catriona Matthew the last, also at Lytham, nine years ago.
Her two other professional wins came on the Australian and Access tours.
It takes a certain type of player to make her breakthrough win a major and Hall is that certain type of player.
In that Solheim Cup debut she was the only player on either side to play all five matches. To make the team she ended up topping the Order of Merit by more than €200,000 from Carlota Ciganda. There were questions over the lack of a victory, the other way of looking at it was that her worst week in 10 starts was a tie for 34th, one of only two times she finished outside the top 15.
She challenged at last year’s British Open, followed it up with another top 10 at the Evian and then came through two lots of Q School to take her place on the LPGA Tour.
Golf rarely follows a consistent upward curve but Hall’s progress has been pretty much seamless, she only turned pro in 2014.
I once played a round with Hall at Fulford when she was just 16. She had just won the British Girls at Tenby with some ease so hopes were high for her but you couldn’t fail to imagine a day like this, such were her all-round skills and maturity.
The following year she landed the British Amateur, making a hole-in-one at the 17th in the final, to hold both the girls and ladies’ titles. Now she has all three British titles.
Even as a teenager there was already a genuine zip and crispness to her ball-striking, she might have missed one fairway and I can’t recall a single green not being located. Even more impressive were her infectious humour and modesty; there was a lot of giggling and she made the whole thing look an absolute doddle.
There wasn’t a single element of the game that was anything other than outstanding, even her course management which we quizzed her about on the day, and this week she demonstrated all those skills with remarkable aplomb.
If you’ve played Lytham, or are even slightly familiar with the layout, then it should blow you away that she only dropped three shots in four rounds. And the closing bogey, where four putts would have sufficed, was only down to a naturally conservative first effort.
Her first shot of the week was a 5-iron to 12 inches, there were 20 birdies in total and there was some welcome advice from a couple of sage minds. Last year, when she finished third at Kingsbarns, she followed Gary Player’s suggestion to focus on her lag putting in practice.
This time around Tom Lehman, winner of The Open at Lytham in 1996, advised Hall to stay short of the bunkers and take her chances from there – hence why the 3-iron returned to the bag. There were also nine holes in practice picking the brains of Ken Brown.
And to make the week even more memorable she had her dad, Wayne, on her bag in place of her boyfriend. She said all the right things, it was genuine and the only wobble all week came, understandably, when she dedicated the win to her granddad who isn’t in the best of health.
We’re lucky to have her as one of our own. At the start of the week it was all the usual talk of which Asian player would dominate, as it turned out we got a third European victory in the past five majors.