Rookie Charley Hull sets up Europe Solheim Cup win

Youngster who has only turned professional this year sets up first success by the visitors in the US with solid victory over Creamer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 3:02am


Before the first ball was struck in the Solheim Cup, Suzann Pettersen of Norway was asked what the Europeans could do to hand the United States a first loss on home soil.

Pettersen, who had been a member of three vanquished visiting teams in the biennial competition, said, "We still don't know what it takes, because we have never done it before."

The answer, it turns out, was sitting demurely next to Pettersen in the interview room. At 17, Charley Hull was the youngest competitor since the Solheim Cup's 1990 inception, and one of six rookies on this year's European squad.

Hull made Pettersen laugh when she said she did not expect to feel any more nervous on the first tee at Colorado Golf Club than before a club match at Woburn in Massachusetts, where she was taught by Lee Scarborough, the swing instructor who worked with Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter.

On a sultry Sunday, Hull, from England, coolly defeated Paula Creamer, the 2010 US Women's Open champion, 5&4, to deliver to Europe the first of the 3 1/2 points they needed to keep the cup they won in Ireland in 2011.

After Stacy Lewis halved her match against Anna Nordqvist, Carlota Ciganda of Spain defeated Morgan Pressel 4&2, and Caroline Hedwall beat Michelle Wie with a birdie at the 18th hole for the cup-retaining point.

Europe's 18-10 victory was the most lopsided in the event's history.

In sealing the decisive 14th point for the Europeans, Hedwall, 24, a Swede who starred at Oklahoma State, became the first player in Solheim Cup history to go 5-0-0.

It was her second successive star turn in the event. In 2011, she earned a pressure half-point in the singles matches to cue Europe's celebration.

"She may call the course her home now, because she really played some spectacular golf," Meg Mallon, the US captain said, referring to Hedwall. "But what you are seeing is the future of the Solheim Cup, which is in really good hands."

Hull woke up feeling ill and was feverish on the practice range. On the second tee, Annika Sorenstam, an assistant captain for Europe, sought medicine, which Hull rejected, making do with a towel soaked in cold water that she wore like a scarf between shots.

She missed three putts inside five feet on the front nine, but her ball striking remained so good it did not matter. Hull was three up after nine and made five birdies to Creamer's one in 14 holes.

If Creamer looked dismayed, and her discomfort standing over putts was obvious, it may have been because Hull is reminiscent of Creamer's teenage self. Hull was the second player, after Creamer, to play in the Curtis Cup, an amateur team event, one year and the Solheim Cup the next.

After Hull secured her second point of the week, her expression did not change. She walked over to Creamer and they hugged. As they left the green, Hull took out a ball and asked Creamer to autograph it.

"I'm still a fan," said Hull, who will try to qualify for the LPGA Tour this year. "And I'm going to give it to my friend, James, because he's a big fan."

Hull, who turned professional in March and finished second in her first five events on the Ladies European Tour, is as old school as Ben Crenshaw, who helped design the course that Hull turned into her debutante stage.

Hull has not signed any endorsement deals yet, she said, because she wants to focus on golf during her first year as a pro and does not want her practice time cut short for corporate outings and other commitments that come with big contracts.

She does not come across as a prisoner of her prodigy status. She expresses no fear of letting people down after raising their expectations with a game that is fully mature.

"This is how I always look at golf," Hull said. "I'm not going to die if I miss it. Just hit it, and find it, and hit it again."

After she was added to the team as a discretionary pick, Hull received a pep talk from Poulter, who advised her, "Be respectful, but ruthless".

Led by Hull and the other rookies, the Europeans, who lost eight of the first 12 Solheim Cups, suddenly look as if they could be winning like this for a long time.

The New York Times