There is a sliver of hope that the Ladies’ Golf Union and the 15-year-old Charley Hull could sort out their differences before 27 March, the day when the selectors will announce the eight-strong Curtis Cup side for Nairn. And that they could do so without either party losing face.
To recap, everything went badly awry when Hull, the sixth-ranked amateur in the world, received an invitation to play in the Kraft Nabisco at the end of March. Understandably flattered, she decided to opt out of the preceding Curtis Cup trial, and that though she had signed a contract to say she would be there. Presumably, she felt that her golfing CV was such that the LGU could not leave her out of the team itself which, of course, is precisely what they elected to do.
Hope of a reconciliation rests on the fact that the selectors are an independent body who, as explained by Shona Malcolm, the CEO of the LGU, do not have to go along with the LGU’s decision.
It is because the selectors helped with the wording of the contract, that they might want to admit that they should have included a “get-out clause.” As for Charley’s advisers, they could – and should – shoulder the blame for their crass handling of events.
Instead of encouraging Charley to ring the Curtis Cup captain, Tegwen Matthews, to explain what was going on, they took it upon themselves to pull Charley out of the trial themselves. The only problem, here, was that they sent the message to the wrong body at the wrong address. Namely, to the Women’s European Tour at The Berkshire rather than the LGU in St Andrews.
The LGU took that much on the chin and endeavoured to phone the teenager in a bid to reach a compromise. Sadly, Charley was by then incommunicado.
When Matthews finally managed to get through to her via Facebook to explain how she could leave Nairn early and still get to California four days ahead of her tournament, the youngster said she had made up her mind. She would sooner practise in California.
Since the captain had already spoken to the father of one of the other players and confirmed that it was necessary for his daughter to fly back from the States for the three days at Nairn, she was by then in no position to say something entirely different to Charley, even if she had wanted to. “The Curtis Cup is a team event and it wouldn’t have been fair on the rest,” she stressed.
“Apart from that,” she continued, “I’ve made it clear all along that I’m looking for eight players who are prepared to bust a gut to get in my team. Charley hasn’t exactly conveyed that impression.”
There are, of course, plenty of Charleys out there, youngsters so focused on their professional futures that they have scant appreciation of the amateur game. They can probably tell you who is earning what on the LPGA Tour but, were you to ask them anything about the story of the Curtis Cup, they would not have a clue. A career as a professional does not demand anything in the way of historical knowledge, even if Tiger Woods has revelled in learning about past golfing greats.
Meanwhile, it is interesting that some of the same professionals who criticised the then 14-year-old Michelle Wie for playing among the men, are now rounding on the LGU. Their main gripe about Wie playing in men’s events was that she was showing the LPGA no respect. On the one hand, she had not won any of their events at that stage and, on the other, TV and the newspapers were ignoring them in the weeks when Wie was on the PGA Tour.
This Curtis Cup kerfuffle is not too different. Charley has so far shown scant respect for the LGU, who have invested half-a-million pounds on the match, and for the people of Nairn. To use Matthews’ expression, the locals are “busting a gut” to make the fixture as good as it can be.
The reason the LGU went down the contract route was because they were aware of an ever-more cavalier attitude infiltrating the amateur ranks. The men have had to follow a similar course, with everyone well aware of how Nigel Edwards had the devil of a job on his hands to stop Tom Lewis from turning professional ahead of the 2011 Walker Cup.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Golf Union, who invest around £25,000 a year in each of their amateurs, have their own not untypical story to tell.
When one of their players was invited to play in a professional event, they asked him to make sure he wore his Scottish sweater bearing its SGU sponsors’ logos. Yet, barely had the lad arrived at the tournament than he was accepting free this and free that and carting it away in a bag bearing an entirely different logo.
The SGU wasted no time in having a quiet word.
In the calm after last week’s storm, the hope is that a quiet chat between the women’s selectors and Charley might suffice to put an end to this latest sorry saga on the distaff side of the game.