It’s difficult to truly put into words the scale of what Georgia Hall achieved back in August at Royal Lytham & St Annes, winning her first major championship in scintillating style on home-soil.
And that’s why it’s difficult to put into words what exactly happened, and what an earth the BBC were thinking, on Sunday night in Birmingham at the Sports Personality of the Year awards.
In a new format, the six contenders for the main award were revealed on the night in the opening stages of the show. Now, if you’re a golf fan, you’re often left disappointed when the show rolls around each December. The last time a golfer was handed the historic award was 29 years ago when Nick Faldo won The Masters. In 2014, Rory McIlroy, having won The Open and PGA Championship, lost out to Lewis Hamilton, who drives cars.
There was a bit more hope coming into the show this year for us golf fans. Justin Rose won twice on tour, finished top-20 in every major, won the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and had ascended to the World No. 1 spot for the first time in his career – but he was absent from the six that were decided by a panel made up of former SPOTY winners, broadcasters and journalists.
Also left off the sextet was Hall, the 22-year-old phenom who had claimed the British Open, capturing the hearts of the British public when she brought the trophy back home for the first time since Catriona Matthew nine years ago.
The omission wasn’t really a surprise; nobody on the ‘panel’ had a golf background and, to be fair, it would be difficult to whittle down all of the sporting achievements of the past 12 months down to just six people.
But what happened next was quite simply baffling.
Halfway through the show, in among a montage of other sports action, Hall was given fewer than 15 seconds in which the only shot shown was a tap-in on the final green which sealed the win. And that was it. The camera then cut to co-host Gary Lineker, who was stood next to Hall, but she wasn’t even allowed to speak.
Anyone that hadn’t seen the tournament would have been left oblivious to Hall’s battle for the ages with Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum over the final two days. The two traded birdies on the infamous Lancashire links, pulled away from the rest of the field before Hall eventually wore the experienced Thai down on the brutal par-4 17th.
And then, immediately after the camera panned to Hall in the crowd, we had to endure a lengthy tribute – complete with a bizarre rendition of Three Lions – to the England football team, who were knocked out of the World Cup semi-finals by Croatia after the team had previously beat Panama, Tunisia and Sweden in 90 minutes and Colombia in a penalty shootout.
Earlier in the show, Billie Jean King was honoured with the lifetime achievement award and gave a speech about how she campaigned for equality, which was quite rightly lapped up by the audience inside the Genting Arena.
Yet here there was an opportunity to celebrate and recognise one of the finest achievements of a British woman in many a year – in golf, no less, a sport which has often been seen to have a stuffy image and has struggled with discriminatory issues in the not so distant past.
Francesco Molinari won the World Sport Star award which was voted for by the public, beating Simone Biles, Ester Ledecka, and Oleksandr Usyk. Clearly the public still care about golf.
And that’s why it’s incredibly difficult to comprehend why Hall was given almost no recognition. A British woman winning a major should be even more impressive than a British man winning one – unlike the men, European women’s golf is on its knees and only four British players currently rank inside the world’s top 100 compared to 16 in the men’s game. Hall’s Lytham triumph really was the stuff of fairytales.
Add in the fact that it was the Bournemouth star’s first major win, with it coming in her home championship in such dramatic fashion, and the snub looks even more unfathomable.
Sadly, it’s just more proof, if you needed any, that the BBC – once the home of Open Championship and Ryder Cup live coverage – simply aren’t interested in golf.
How Twitter reacted to Georgia Hall’s SPOTY snub
I know moaning about #SPOTY contenders is like shouting at a brick wall, but Georgia Hall missing out is a national scandal and I demand heads roll.
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) December 16, 2018
Can’t believe @georgiahall96 not nominated for SPOTY. Well I can but a British winner of the men’s Open would surely have made the list wouldn’t they?
— Iain Carter (@iaincartergolf) December 16, 2018
No Georgia Hall on this SPOTY shortlist is a shocker. If a Brit makes the third round of the women’s singles at Wimbledon, the BBC is looking for a public holiday. Kane, Hamilton, Anderson, a cyclist (!)… far far too same-ish.
— Ewan Murray (@mrewanmurray) December 16, 2018
— Catriona matthew (@Beany25) December 16, 2018
so georgia hall didnt even get to speak into a microphone at SPOTY. it's an effing disgrace. i'll say again: imagine if she had won wimbledon. absolute joke
— James Corrigan (@jcorrigangolf) December 16, 2018