It is fair to say that Charley Hull is up for the fight. Not just against Team USA, as Europe try to win an unprecedented third Solheim Cup in succession, but with all those male golfers on social media and beyond who truly believe they could hack it among the top female professionals.
Hull usually ignores these arrogant ignorants. You know, those guys off a low handicap who can launch it towards the 300-yard marker posts and think that it is sufficient to rival the likes of Hull and associates. But last week, as she prepared for the Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin – her sixth appearance in the competition despite being only 27 – a post on X raised her hackles.
“Shall we sort this game out,” Hull replied to a three-handicapper who claimed he would make every cut on the LPGA [Tour] and be a top-20 player. “I’ll let him play off the red tees whilst I play off the whites.”
Shall we sort this game out 👀 I’ll let him play off the red tees whilst I’ll play off the whites https://t.co/MAGfE4hprP
— Charley Hull (@HullCharley) September 11, 2023
Unsurprisingly, Hull has heard no more on the matter. Not from the gentleman, himself, anyway. The reaction otherwise has stunned her. “I turned my phone on the other day and it’s been amazing, with thousands of messages and millions of views. I would be up for playing, yes. But hopefully, this might put an end to all stuff about good club golfers being actually able to compete with us. It is stupid and insulting.”
Hull has always played against males. There were no other girls at her childhood club in Kettering so was forced to judge her game versus that of the boys. “It helped me,” she tells Telegraph Sport. Even now the majority of her social rounds involve teeing it up with the lads. “I play with EuroPro Tour players and regularly beat them off the back tees. I enjoy that challenge.”
Hull is not about to name the male friends who have felt the humbling power of her talent. A personal anecdote is from a friend whose son is a top amateur prospect. “His pal, a very good player, went out and played with Charley recently,” he told me. “And when he came back in, he said to my son, ‘Christ, she murdered me’.”
Hull is not claiming parity. She is simply demanding respect for her profession. “If anyone wonders how good we are they should come out and watch us,” she says. “This week, here, would have been a good place to start. I’m not saying we are as good as the guys. They are bigger and stronger. But as women’s golf continues to progress we are getting more skilful.
“It’s the same as the money thing. Should we be paid the same money? At the end of the day, probably no, because more people watch men’s golf and they get more sponsors. But the more the game is progressive, the more the viewers will go up and then the more money we will get out of it. So it’s a hard one to justify. But it’s quite funny how they like to think they can beat us when they’re playing off three. He should really come and watch us.”
Laura Davies would pay the admission fee to witness Hull close up, even if she was not a vice-captain at this, the 18th Solheim Cup. “She is box office,” the four-time major winner told Telegraph Sport. “Charley is my favourite golfer to watch – male or female. She has been for ages. Every shot she hits is an event in itself. She is such an exciting golfer. No messing around and throws herself into each shot.”
Hull blushes when informed of Davies’s praise. “When I was a kid and I’d go out with the two boys I’d play with, James would want to be Seve [Ballesteros], Daniel would want to be Phil Mickelson and I’d pretend to be Laura Davies. So to have her say those things about me is incredibly cool.”
Davies does offer a caveat, however. “It is nuts that Charley has only won twice on the LPGA Tour. But she has had a brilliant season this year and I think this could lead to her stepping up to that level where she should be. She is a wonderful girl and I’d love to see it.”
Hull has yet to lift silverware in 2023. But as she has risen to world No 8 – her highest ranking to date – she has recorded runners-up finishes at both the US Women’s Open and the Women’s Open and racked up three other seconds, including in Cincinnati two weeks ago. “It’s been good and I’m content, but I do get bored – it takes so long and I wish they’d do something about it and enforce the rules – and do silly things.
“It was like at an American event at the start of this year. I was so homesick. I had a flight booked out on the Sunday at 7.30pm back to England and I couldn’t wait to get on it. But on the Saturday I was three or four off the lead or something with three holes to go and I was actually thinking to myself, ‘If I birdie all these, I’ll be in the final group tomorrow and might miss my flight’. I didn’t quit or anything – on the 16th I hit to a foot for a birdie. But I did four-putt the last. And I was annoyed with myself, because even though I was trying, it was in the back of my mind. And it shouldn’t have been. But that’s just who I am. I’m quirky and I’ve accepted it.”
Her team-mates agree. Hull was the only player who turned up in the wrong uniform on Wednesday and nobody was surprised. “Charley is the highlight for everyone in the team room every day,” Georgia Hall said. “She makes everyone laugh. She doesn’t try to, she just does.”
Hall, the 2018 Women’s Open champion, has known Hull since they were 10. They are close and Hall, on occasion, sounds protective of her friend. For good reason. Hull was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in April and took a month away from the game “to fix my head”. It is an ongoing challenge.
“I hardly get any sleep,” Hull says. “I am awake at 3am knowing I have to get up at 7am and I can’t do anything about it because my mind can’t switch off. It’s tough. I’ve actually slept well here, though. There’s so much going on in the Solheim and I’m with my team-mates. I love it, but I can’t believe it’s 10 years since my debut.”
This match has witnessed her growing up. From the 17-year-old who became the Solheim’s youngest-ever player and, who, after beating Paula Creamer 5&4 in the singles in that Denver encounter, asked for the American’s autograph. To the fresh-faced veteran with a winning record of nearly 66 per cent who only bows to Annika Sorenstam among the Europeans who have played at least four matches.
“I only look at the end result of each game but I didn’t know my own individual record was that good,” Hull says. “What can I say? I’m in my happy place.”