NAIRN, SCOTLAND | Charley Hull, at No. 4 in the world the highest-ranked player on either side in last week’s Curtis Cup, is at the other end of the spectrum to the slow players we have been reading about of late. The 16-year-old Hull smashes her drive and she’s off, chasing down the fairway and giving the impression that she would like to hit her partner’s and her opponents’ golf balls as well as her own. If she were behind the wheel of a car (which, mercifully, she is not) she wouldn’t be waiting at the red lights.
Though there was the suggestion that she had been snubbed by Tegwen Matthews, the GB&I captain, when she was left out of the opening foursomes series last Friday, that was manifestly not the case. It is true that there was trouble when she pulled out of the final Curtis Cup trial to play in the Kraft Nabisco, but Matthews had long ago drawn a line under that unfortunate set of circumstances. The last thing she wanted was any lingering ill-feeling when it came to the week of the match.
The real reason that Matthews saved Hull till the Friday afternoon fourballs was because of her relative lack of knowledge of the foursomes’ format. Where her sister team members had years of foursomes experience under their belts from playing in Home International matches, Hull has been groomed since childhood for the stroke-play of the professional game.
Throughout her career, she has had a schedule all her own and, to be fair, one which has looked very promising for her purposes. In 2011, she won the English and Welsh stroke-play championships, while she had a highly commendable third-round 68 on her way to finishing inside the top 40 in the aforementioned Kraft Nabisco.
Matthews, who said, in bemused tones, “I’ve not met too many Charleys before,” had precisely the right four-ball partner for this eager citizen in the 23-year-old Pamela Pretswell.
“I needed someone who could keep Charley on a leash,” she explained before the two set forth. “She’s young, she’s an exceptional talent and she’s very excitable. Pam will remind her when the time’s right to pick up an opponent’s ball and to hand it across nicely, and she’ll also do her best to stop her from racing off to the next tee before others have putted out.”
Gillian Stewart, the Inverness-based professional who played with Hull when she came to Nairn a month ago, was as Matthews in seeing the girl as something of a one-off.
The two were introduced in the professional’s shop and agreed that they would meet on the first tee in ten minutes. There was a minute or so still to go when Stewart arrived on the tee to find the youngster launching into her drive. It was a great shot – there is a glorious dollop of excitement in Charley’s every hit – but Stewart couldn’t help thinking to herself, “That’s a bit strange.”
On the other side of the coin, Stewart was bowled over by her talent and her enthusiasm. Indeed, when she took her to the practice ground at the end of the round and showed her a shot which would work well in the northerly winds, Hull could not be dragged away. “It was wet, windy and absolutely miserable and, after a couple of hours, I was saying, ‘Don’t you think you should stop now?’ ” says Stewart, laughing.
There is no question that Hull loves her golf and, always assuming she does not get diverted by boys or has any injury problems, she should enjoy the best of golfing futures. Tony Jacklin, when he played alongside her in the annual Farmfoods British Par-3 championship in the Midlands when she was a 13-year-old, had no hesitation in saying that she had the looks and the golf to win millions of dollars.
Everyone knew she would attract big crowds at Nairn and, sure enough, hundreds trailed after her and Pretswell as they played Amy Anderson and Emily Tubert. Alas, there was no stopping the Americans who, having bagged three points out of three in the morning foursomes, were feeling invincible at the start of the afternoon. Anderson and Tubert opened with a couple of birdies and, on those rare occasions when they were in trouble, their short games came slickly to the rescue. Two up at the turn, they went on to defeat the GB&I pair by 4 and 3 in a match which took in no fewer than ten birdies. It was, as Matthews said, great golf all round.
Hull is perfectly placed for a player in a hurry in that she is already in touch with the LPGA Tour. In the days after the Kraft Nabisco, she received one congratulatory message from Karen Stupples, the former Ricoh British Women’s Open champion, and another from Lexi Thompson, the American teenager who is in the same mould – home schooled and richly talented– as she is herself, only a couple of steps further down the road.
“It’s cool when players like that know who you are,” said Hull.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that all the Americans know who she is and are even now saying a collective, “Watch out, here comes Charley.”