Five-star prodigy with B&B lifestyle: Charley Hull and her plasterer dad go into season's final major with feet still firmly on the ground
Kettering is unlikely ever to be twinned with Evian, venue of this weekend's Evian Championship, which perhaps explains why Charley Hull is attacking the final major of the women's season from a two-star pension, three stars and some distance removed from the splendour of the spa town and associated golfing glitz on the banks of Lake Geneva.
A major part of Hull's appeal is her attachment to the ordinary. Here she is, 17 years old, a blonde bundle of golfing dynamite blowing up convention, eschewing the five-star embellishments calling out to her in favour of the company of her father, Dave, and the local B&B. The rules compel Hull to be chaperoned, but they do not govern lifestyle choices.
"We stayed in a posh place the first night," Dave said. "It was chucking it down and late, and we couldn't find our digs. It was nice enough but we love it in our little place up the hill." Dave, a retired plasterer, is notionally paying the bills, €600 for the week. If his daughter really wanted the luxury linen of the tournament hotel, the sponsors forming an orderly queue at the pension door would happily pick up the tab.
The commercial block imposed at the start of the season to ease his daughter's passage into the professional game is about to be eased. "Those things will come. The most important thing," Dave said, "is Charley's golf. We didn't want to complicate things. There have been offers and things will develop, but we didn't want any distractions this year."
Distractions? Hull finished second in her first professional event, and in her second, and third, and fourth, and yes, her fifth, too, an achievement that, according to one Laura Davies, will never be repeated. A fortnight ago she played a central role in the retention of the Solheim Cup, the game's youngest competitor driving Europe to a first victory on American soil with successive victories over the great Paula Creamer. Yet still no airs and graces. Asked whether she would choose a takeaway over cordon bleu cooking, she answered: "What's cordon bleu?"
Davies, for so long the totem of the women's game, has formed a close bond with Hull, who, she says, reminds her of her unreconstructed self. "Her game reminds me of mine when I was younger, going for every shot. I don't think I've seen her back off a shot yet. I was a bit more fiery. She is so laid back. That is some combination. What she has achieved already is amazing.
"To turn up at the Solheim Cup six months after turning professional and be the star of the show alongside Caroline Hedwall was just incredible. I played with her in Monaco and said when I came off that this girl was going to be something else."
Davies was "something else" when she emerged in 1985, winning the money list in her rookie year. "All of a sudden I was the picture on the front of the year book. So many players don't like the attention. Charley looks to me as if she does. Even when it's not going well she is not negative. She enjoys trying to get back in the tournament. As long as she retains the joy of playing, like I always have, everything will just fall into place.
"We have got to know each other quite well, having a drink and a feed after rounds. Her parents are lovely people, too. If she gets too big for her boots they will give her a clip around the ear. That's what my dad did, too. So many players come out here and try to rush it. She is only 17. She can just cruise for a few years and then she will start winning like Imbee Park. I can see her having many dominating years. We are very lucky to have her. The galleries love her. She will be huge in America. They will just love her attitude, but for the game in general she is great."
Hull knows this only because her father tells her. She has deleted her Twitter account, doesn't watch TV and does not read newspapers and magazines. She exists in a self-imposed bubble of golf course and Kettering. "I haven't got Twitter any more so I don't really see what the golfing world is saying. I deleted it. Facebook is enough for me. Just stick with my friends. I never watch myself on TV. I never read any newspaper I'm in. I just think it's about what I do on the course. It's the way I've always been. I just play golf."
Such is the interest in Hull and the rapidly developing narrative around women's golf, Sky have relegated the men to the red button in Holland this week. Take that! The Solheim experience consolidated a season that has already exceeded expectation, yet Hull has never felt anything other than ready for the big show. She was Kettering ladies champion aged nine, off scratch at 11, and at 14 had Graeme McDowell following her around in the Portrush galleries during an amateur event.
"He said he reminded her so much of Rory McIlroy," Dave said, making the obvious comparison with the boy wonder from Holywood, who turned pro at the same age. She's cool with that. She's cool with everything. She's cool full stop. "After Solheim I feel the pressure has lifted," she said. "I feel that I proved myself. It was really important to do well in Canada (17th two weeks ago) to keep the momentum going. I have a had a big few weeks; Spain, the European Masters, The British Open, four days at home then the Solheim. It takes it out of you mentally. The more experience you have the more you realise rest is the key."
That does not mean the standard teenage diversions. "People say to me why don't you drink? I'm happy enough when I don't. I can have fun without the alcohol. I'm a professional golfer at the end of the day and want to be the best. I don't want to be some drunken person all the time. I don't like the taste of it." Surely she has done the festival thing? "No. I have not been to Glastonbury. I was busy this year. I would probably get bored. I like doing a bit of golf every day."
The Evian Championship is one of three ladies' majors exclusively live on Sky Sports as part of a year-round schedule of women's sport
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