Charley Hull discusses her passage to the professional ranks, her success at such a young age, her golfing philosophy and more
Charley Hull Exclusive Q&A: Turning Pro Young, Life On Tour & More
GM: You are renowned as one of the most natural golfers out there. Is that fair?
CH: Yeah, I’d agree I’m more of a natural player. When someone tries to change that, it gets me more robotic and it doesn’t work, so I would say that natural is better.
GM: That begs the question, how did you learn to play?
CH: I didn’t learn the technique until about five years ago, so I kind of just went out there and played all the time. My first coach, Kevin, [Theobald, at Kettering Golf Club] told me to hit it as hard as I can. That was the only thing I used to know – hit it as hard as I can and get through the ball. I played lots of chipping competitions with the lads down at the golf club, having fun games. That was pretty much what I did all the time and it was so much fun.
GM: Can you give us an idea of what level you got to at certain points as a junior?
CH: I think I got down to scratch when I was 11.
GM: So the game must have come easy to you?
CH: I was always brought up with boys and I much preferred playing with them. The standard was a lot better and I really enjoyed it.
GM: You dropped out of school at an early age. Can you tell us about that decision?
CH: Yeah, I quit school when I was 12, to be home schooled. I sometimes wish I’d carried on because I miss my friends, but it was a good thing for my golf. To be fair, I didn’t do any school work when I left school, I just played golf! Usually people would be at school from 9am to 3pm; I was playing golf from 9am to 3pm every day. I was playing with the lads down at the golf club because they sometimes skived off school to play with me and we just had a few games. A few of them were a lot older than me. I had a best friend called James and we played golf together every single day.
GM: At what point did you want to be a professional golfer?
CH: From pretty much the age that I first picked up a golf club, that’s when I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer.
GM: What about other sports?
CH: Golf was the main one. I played a bit of football and a bit of tennis in my back garden, just hitting the ball around and breaking loads of windows!
GM: What were the key moments and milestones during your amateur career?
CH: I’ll tell you what was important, winning the English Girls Under-13 Championship and then going and winning in America a couple of times. That was against Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, and Jaye Marie Green. Some of the biggest names in the professional world today were playing in those events back then. Then I won the Welsh Amateur and English Amateur in the same year and the year after that I turned professional.
Video: Charley Hull What’s in the bag?
GM: Given that you were only 16 when you turned pro, were you shorter than everyone else in terms of how far you hit the golf ball?
CH: No, not really. I would say I was probably longer back then than I am now with my irons, because I used to have a very upright swing and I used to de-loft the club a lot. I remember at one point, I was a 15-year-old hitting my 7-iron 175 yards, but it was not as controlled.
GM: With the Charley Hull we see today, what’s the same as back then?
CH: I’m pretty much the same. I am a straighter hitter now and a better iron player, but I have always been a good iron player. I would say my whole game has got better. I’ve got more shots. Back then, if there was a back-right pin I would hit a draw; now I would hit a fade. Just stuff like that. My coach, Matt Belsham, has got that into me.
GM: Tell us about that run of second-place finishes you had on the Ladies European Tour when you first turned pro…
CH: I didn’t even think about it, to be fair. I just went out there, I was playing well and I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty easy’, and I got picked for the Solheim Cup. I was actually disappointed about that because I had a birthday party I was meant to be going to that weekend. It’s not like I was ecstatic to be in the Solheim Cup team – I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, I am going to miss my friend’s birthday party’ so I was kind of gutted in a way. But then I went out there and played pretty well. That’s a 17-year-old mind for you!
GM: It also shows that you’re not so focused on golf…
CH: Exactly, that’s 100 per cent right. Last year I was a bit too down on myself because I’d been trying to feel like golf was everything, and it can get you down. Then I realised I needed to just play for fun, which has been a lot better. I prefer playing golf like that.
GM: How do you feel about your game currently?
CH: I am not lying when I say 2019 was probably the best I hit it tee to green, it’s crazy. My short game has let me down a bit recently, but then the last three weeks I have been practising it loads and I can say my chipping has been really good. It’s not really my technique, it’s my head. I think I get in the way of myself. My husband is a very positive person and he’s done psychology as well, so I feel better once I talk to him.
GM: Tell us about the challenge of the LPGA Tour…
CH: I don’t know, it is all I am used to pretty much, the LPGA! I played in Europe for a year when I was 17. There are a lot of great players out there. They are super focused. My favourite players out on the tour to watch are Lexi Thompson and Carlota Ciganda because they’ve got a lot of flair. They do hit bad shots, but the recovery shots are really fun. I am kind of one of those players – put me in a tricky position and I’ll hit a great shot, and that’s what I like watching. I think a lot more people like watching that kind of golf rather than boring golf.
GM: Do you want to be known as a flair player?
CH: This is weird, but I’d rather people say, ‘She may not hit every shot perfectly, but she recovers and she’s so interesting to watch,’ rather than, ‘She just hits it straight and boring’. I would rather just have a bit more flair.
GM: What is your verdict on 2019?
CH: It was a bit annoying because I got very poorly in the middle of the year, and it took about four months to start feeling good again. It was a bit annoying because I was playing good golf up until then. Since I have been feeling better, my results have been pretty good again. [Charley played one final event in 2019 after this interview. She finished second by one stroke at the CME Group Tour Championship, earning just under half a million dollars at the LPGA Tour’s season-ending event.]
GM: What is your mindset heading into 2020?
CH: This is probably the best I have hit the ball in all the years since turning pro, it is just in my head. I feel like I am really confident at the moment and I have gone back to my old caddie, Adam Woodward. He was like my best friend and I split with him for about a year, but now we’ve got back together so we’ll have a lot of laughs, I’m sure.
Video: Playing golf with Charley Hull
GM: You’ve been out here for a while now. What have you learned about how to compete on tour?
CH: I would say the big lesson is that you’re not going to have a good week every week – you’ve just got to go out there and enjoy it. You’ve only got one life – I’m not going to take it too seriously.
GM: I am sure that you’re eyeing up Major wins, but what do you need to do over the next five years to achieve that?
CH: Just stay patient. My game is where it needs to be, I am the only one who’s in the way of myself, if that makes any sense. Once I believe in myself, I know I have got a few wins in me. My win at the 2016 CME Tour Championship was a big win. I think at the time that was the second biggest paycheck in women’s golf.
GM: Tell us about how you felt going down the stretch in that scenario with so much on the line?
CH: I’ll tell you one thing I remember: I was playing down the last at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and I just remember thinking, ‘I hope I catch my flight at 9 o’clock’. I had a three-hour drive down to Miami and I think that took the pressure off the last hole. I hit it on the green in two, two-putted and won by two. I think it was the record winning score there so it was good.
Meet The Manager
Vicky Cuming of IMG has managed Charley Hull since she turned professional.
Here, she talks about her star golfer and the health of the women’s game in general
GM: What’s Charley like to manage?
VC: She is very down to earth and I would say pretty easy to manage because she’s so straightforward. You ask her a question or ask for a decision and she will make it quickly. She is also a very interested person and she asks a lot of questions. There is never a dull moment with Charley!
GM: How good is she?
VC: Scarily good. Like she says, she is the only person who’s getting in the way of herself. She has got incredible natural talent and I think it is about trusting that talent.
GM: What’s the challenge in managing someone who is so good from such an early age?
VC: I think it is really tough for them because there is so much hype. Her family have kept her down to earth, because they are really lovely people. Yes, she left school at a really young age which was the right thing to do for her golf but I think sometimes this can present some social challenges, which Charley did amazingly well to overcome. Everyone is going to have ups and downs in their careers, and sometimes you have to help a player understand that they may not be in the Top ten every week – golf really is a long process and players often don’t peak until their late 20s, so introducing some patience can be a challenge!
GM: From your perspective, how is the health of the women’s game in general?
VC: If you look at the LPGA and global women’s golf, you’ve got to say it is getting stronger because the prize money is going up. There are no shortage of events, but it is a constant challenge. Women’s sport is on a real spurt, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it is getting easier to attract sponsorship to women’s sport. I think for golf, the challenge is keeping up with the great success we’ve had in the UK in women’s football, rugby and cricket. They have done brilliantly and I feel our challenge is to now keep up with that.
GM: How important is TV coverage?
VC: It’s huge. Sky has been amazing – they are pledging to show a lot of women’s golf. Sometimes it would be nice if they showed it at slightly more sociable times, but beggars can’t be choosers. They have used Charley as an ambassador for women’s golf, which has been just brilliant.
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