Woman of the Year: Solheim Cup heroine Charley Hull
Opinion was split on whether Charley Hull was ready for the Solheim Cup.
Some, including past captains, thought she was too young and inexperienced. The 17-year-old only made her professional debut in March of this year – two years ago she was playing Junior Solheim Cup (under Lotta Neumann’s captaincy), last year she was part of the winning Curtis Cup side at Nairn.
It was a gamble but a measured one by Neumann. The Swede had probably seen enough in Hull’s five successive runner-up positions to open her professional career, she had also spent a few days in the youngster’s company in the team get-together at Colorado GC in the summer.
The course was made for her. There were plenty of birdie opportunities on offer and Hull loves making birdies. Let’s rewind to the Saturday fourballs in Denver. Hull’s debut the previous day, alongside Catriona Matthew, had come against Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr – it finished with the Americans closing out at the 17th.
Hull played her part but the Americans had proved too strong. The lead was then reduced to a single point on the Saturday morning so the afternoon would likely prove crucial in terms of momentum.
The underdog visitors, resting three of their leading lights in Anna Nordqvist, Pettersen and Matthew, had eight players on the course with just three caps between them. Hull would be out first with fellow rookie Jodi Ewart Shadoff, up against them Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson. The latter, like Hull, was also making history as her team’s youngest player.
In some ways she is remarkably mature, taking all this in her stride, in others she is as refreshingly immature as any other teenager. The plan was for Ewart Shadoff to tee off first and hit fairways and greens freeing Hull up to go at the flag.
It worked a treat and the pair rattled up 10 birdies, six for Hull, against an inspired Thompson. The match swung at the 17th when the American played her tee shot in to six feet before Hull somehow got inside her and the English girl was one to knock her putt in. It was only time during the week that the Woburn youngster admitted to any sort of anxiety.
The rest of their team-mates followed suit with a clean sweep of victories and Europe would head into the singles with a five-point lead.
That lead would soon become six as Hull and Creamer were reunited in the second singles match out. The rookie greeted her opponent on the 1st tee with an innocent ‘you look nice today’ and finished by asking for an autograph for a friend at home.
In the interim there had been six more Hull birdies and it could have been even more decisive but for a couple of shortish putts.
There is nothing not to like about the teenager. We spent a morning with Charley for some instruction pieces in June which came on the back of her five second-place finishes. At one point she had gone to the top of the Order of Merit and the plaudits kept coming her way after each performance. But there was never the slightest hint of any loftiness, she arrived an hour early to warm up, stayed an extra hour for an interview and to do cover shots, and now always says hello.
Even if she wanted to, being the youngest of three sisters, she wouldn’t get away with anything. In some ways she is remarkably mature, taking all this in her stride, in others she is as refreshingly immature as any other teenager. In the years to come there will be equipment deals to be signed to keep sponsors happy, but for now there is none of that, merely a desire to keep improving and no doubt a future on the LPGA Tour.
Last December the then 16-year- old was expected to breeze through the LET Tour School in Morocco. Thirty places were up for grabs and, after a closing 36, Hull could only finish in 36th position.
All that seems some time ago now.