Back in 2016, Charley Hull picked up $500,000 for winning the end-of-season CME Group Tour Championship in the States when she had a closing 66 to finish two clear of So Yeon Ryu. On 18 June this year, she received a cheque for £5,000 for winning the first event in the new Rose Ladies Series.
To look at the pictures of Hull holding her trophy after her 19th-hole win against Liz Young at Brokenhurst Manor was to see a golfer whose love of the game comes a million miles above all else. “She was thrilled to win the CME,” said her father, Dave, “but her smile was just as broad, if not broader, when she won that £5,000. She’d been itching to go out with a card and pencil in hand for months.”
Other professional golfers in Hull’s league tend to concern themselves with rather more in the way of “additional extras” than she does. They will know precisely where their rivals sit on the leaderboard, and they probably could reel off the names of most of those in the top 10 of the Rolex Rankings. (For the record, Hull is 25th.)
By the same token, she is possibly unique in not having given a moment’s consideration to how it would look were she to be walloped by a crop of lesser players across the Rose Series. To her, it is all about playing the best golf she can play, as indeed applies in every event in which she tees up on the LPGA Tour.
As a journalist, you would never go to Hull to ask for her view on another player’s game. (Here, Tiger Woods would be able to fill you in with all sorts of unexpected details about whoever it was.) Hull might or might not know who you were talking about but, were you to ask how the woman drove the ball or putted, she would not have a clue.
Coming from someone else, that kind of approach easily could be interpreted as an affectation. However, when it comes from Hull, you realise that she has remained unchanged from the charmingly naïve teenager who played in the 2012 Curtis Cup at Nairn. On that occasion, she had to be omitted from the first foursomes on the grounds that she did not know what foursomes were. “She asked me so many questions about them that I felt it better to leave her out,” said Tegwen Matthews, the GB&I captain.
Things were not too different in what was the first of Hull’s Solheim Cup appearances the following year in Colorado, when she was asked who among the Americans she would like to play in the singles. “All of them,” she replied.
Eventually, she narrowed it down to Paula Creamer.
It was a grand match for Hull and a thrilling contest for spectators. But it was not such a fascinating prospect for Creamer, who could see that Hull had much the same superabundance of confidence as she had known at the same age. Hull won, 5 and 4, before doing the unthinkable in asking her opponent if she would sign her ball for a friend at home. Creamer was aghast at the time, though it was not too many hours later that she could see the funny side of it.
In the Rose Series, people are seeing a touch of Hull in all the players. None of them has been talking about money. They are all back to being the eager young players they used to be in revelling in a bit of competitive play at a stage when their own Ladies European Tour has yet to get underway.
Justin Rose’s tour is indeed doing precisely as he intended. He himself put in £35,000 and, along with his wife, Kate, and his UK manager, Paul McDonnell, he has sorted out the courses for an eight-tournament English circuit which will help the women to shed the rust from their games.
McDonnell says the players’ gratitude knows no bounds.
“They were delighted to arrive on the first tee at Brokenhurst and find a box of tee-pegs waiting for them, and over the moon when they came to the 10th tee to find a box of bananas, ” he said. “I struggled to believe how totally unspoiled they all are.”
The full name of Rose’s enterprise – the Rose Ladies Series supported by American Golf – was agreed when American Golf stepped in with a matching contribution of £35,000 towards a “Race to the West,” a mini version equivalent of the Race to Dubai. Meanwhile, a third sponsor, Computacenter, has advanced another £35,000 to cover costs at the two-day finale which will involve a first day at the Berkshire and a follow-up on the West Course at Wentworth, where the game began for Rose. (He used to carry a board at the old Match-Play championship and beg for golf balls from great heroes such as Ernie Els and Seve Ballesteros.)
Last week the women played at Moor Park, today they will be at the Buckinghamshire and next week they will head for Royal St George’s and a links that was lying in wait for the Open Championship until that event was cancelled.
“It will be my first time at Royal St George’s and I simply can’t wait,” said Dame Laura Davies.
Verily, the Rose Series has given us a touching glimpse of the days when simply to play golf was enough.
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