Over 10 years and five matches, Charley Hull has found the perfect platform in the Solheim Cup. Now, on the brink of a sixth appearance, she explains that it’s kill or be killed.
Charley Hull has a derring-do in her DNA. It runs through her like the word ‘Blackpool’ in a stick of rock. It was obvious when she made her Solheim Cup debut a decade ago as the match’s youngest-ever competitor and, in essence, she hasn’t really changed.
As a 17-year-old, she threw herself at every drive with the wild abandon and potency of a catapult, she relished every adventure her ball took her on and she drained birdie putts for fun.
Earlier this summer she was at it again, this time carding a superb final round, six-under-par 66 at Pebble Beach to claim a share of second place in the US Women’s Open.
When she was stuck behind a tree on the famous final hole, her hopes appeared lost. “Shy kids don’t get sweets,” she told her caddie (and the watching world) before lashing her approach around the trunk and towards the green.
If her fearless nature has always been abundantly clear, what might be surprising are the exact details of her heritage. Because while it is widely appreciated that Adrian Meronk is on track to become the first Polish golfer to play in the Ryder Cup this year, it is less well-known that Hull, on the brink of becoming a six-time Solheim Cup veteran, is half-Polish, courtesy of her mother, Basienka.
“I actually got asked to play for Poland when I was younger,” reveals Charley, before adding that there was never any question of her representing any nation other than England. At the same time, she’s in absolutely no doubt that the maternal branches of her family tree explain both her childhood dreams and her courage in the heat of battle.
“I’d have loved to be a secret agent and a lot of that is down to my gran, Irena,” she says. “She worked for the Polish resistance, was captured by the Russian army, escaped from a Siberian war camp, and met her husband, Josef, in Baghdad.” Irena, it’s worth adding, was just 15 years of age when all those things began.
Suddenly, it becomes very clear how and why Charley Hull fearlessly thrashed Paula Creamer 5&4 on her debut – and then casually asked her opponent to sign a ball for a friend.
“Gran was a very strong woman and I like to feel I have the same spirit on the course,” she says. “We keep fighting.” If Hull’s golfing demeanor hasn’t changed in the last 10 years, a recent diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has helped explain her lifelong restlessness on and off the course.
When asked about her coping mechanisms, she says: “That’s easy. Out the door at seven in the morning and don’t come back till 11 at night.” More seriously, she’s relieved to have finally scratched so many itches. She now understands, for example, why trips to the cinema don’t work for her (“I can’t sit still”), while her success at Pebble Beach was aided by the boredom-alleviating views of the ocean, cliff-tops, and wildlife.
She’s also beginning to understand why the Solheim Cup, with its energetic, non-stop nature, is such a neat fit for her. “I’m full-on, impatient, I always need a challenge,” she says. “I made a 10 on a par 5 at Centurion Club this summer (in the Aramco Team Series in July). Most people would hate that. I saw it as a test and (still) shot a good number (68).
“I read about how, back in the day, we had to hunt for our food and we had no choice. It was basically catch something or no dinner. With ADHD, you might struggle to focus, but once you do – once you have to – you’re really, really good at it, so matchplay gives me focus. At the Solheim, there is so much going on that I can’t get bored.”
A win-win situation, then, and winning is something Hull has done a lot of in the Solheim: 11 wins in 19 matches, six in nine on European soil. Winning is in her blood.
About the author
Matt Cooper – Contributing Writer
Matt Cooper has been a golf journalist for 15 years. He’s worked for, among others, Golf365, SkySports, ESPN, NBC, Sporting Life, Open.com and the Guardian. He specializes in feature writing, reporting and tournament analysis.
He’s traveled widely in that time, covering golf from Kazakhstan to South Korea via Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
More straightforwardly, he’s also covered numerous Majors, Ryder Cups, and Solheim Cups.