Women's British Open: Charley Hull living life in the fast lane

 

Women's British Open 2014 on the BBC

Venue: Royal Birkdale Golf Club Dates: 10-13 July

Coverage: Live on BBC TV

For Charley Hull, things tend to happen at quite a pace.

She speaks with the rapid-fire delivery expected of a teenager, and in her first driving lesson inadvertently found herself travelling at twice the speed limit.

It provides an easy metaphor for a meteoric career that puts her firmly in the spotlight for this week's Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale.

Along with newly crowned US Open champion Michelle Wie and Kraft Nabisco winner Lexi Thompson, Hull will command plenty of attention at Royal Birkdale.

And why not?

The 18-year-old from Kettering has already won on the Ladies European Tour - the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco in March - after five runner-up finishes in her debut season last year.

There was also a stunning Solheim Cup debut, in which she starred for Europe in a record-breaking win in Colorado last August.

(L-R) Charley Hull, Jessica Korda and Michelle Wie

Hull (left) will face 28 of the top 30 players in the world at the British Open, including Michelle Wie (right)

Hull knows the experience of playing for her continent stands her in great stead as her pro career takes off.

"It felt like it put a bit of pressure on me," she says.

"Because everyone was thinking, 'oh you still haven't won yet', and I felt like I had to win. But I kind of settled down into it this year and I got my win out the way.

"It has given me a little bit of experience, especially holing that four-foot putt to win in Morocco because it was kind of in a matchplay situation."

Hull seems made for big-time golf.

"I love the feeling of pressure. I always have," she says.

In early April, she challenged at the Kraft Nabisco - the year's first major.

And despite finishing seventh behind 19-year-old American Thompson, Hull showed she is not far from being ready to claim a first major title.

Charley Hull's rapid rise

Aged nine: Won the UK National Ladies' Championships at Turnberry

Aged 10: Played with Morgan Pressel in British Open Pro-AM

Aged 14: Highest-ranked English female amateur golfer in the world

Aged 16: Won her singles match against Lindy Duncan as part of the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team in 2012

Aged 17: Made her professional debut, played in the Solheim Cup and won her first tournament on the Ladies European Tour

She certainly feels well equipped for the challenge.

"I like it when the golf courses are longer," she says. "I'm not a big fan of when they make them shorter; it brings the whole field in just because some players think it is too hard.

"I think that's a bit silly, but I think it's good on the LPGA Tour. If the golf course is too long for you, you need to get longer. I think that's how it should be."

Hull was busy trying to earn money in America to secure an LPGA card for next season when she might have been trying to qualify for last month's US Open. 

In truth, she should have been in the Pinehurst field as of right, but the USGA, in its wisdom, couldn't produce an eligibility criterion or invitation for the leading money winner on the Ladies European Tour this year.

"Hopefully that was the last time I'll be left out of the US Open," Hull says as we talk at the Woburn club that is her training base between tournaments.

Stephanie Meadow

Stephanie Meadow, 22, claimed a share of third place at the Ladies European Masters

She has long since turned her attention to the next major, spending the time when Wie was winning the US Open honing her links skills ready for Birkdale.

"I like the golf course. I played it a couple of years ago as an amateur," she says. "Last time it was played there I missed a four-foot putt on the last to qualify and I was about 14 then - so it's good to be in it and not have to qualify.

"It's my favourite links golf course because I think it's a fair links. It's a proper golf course."

And there is no doubt Hull is - to use her description - a proper golfer.

Two-time major champion Tony Jacklin is something of a mentor to her.

Speaking on the Teenage Tigress documentary - to be broadcast on BBC Two at 14:00 BST on Wednesday, 9 July - he says: "She's a world-beater. There's no question about that. She's on the threshold of greatness."

Ricoh Women's British Open 2014

Venue: Royal Birkdale, Southport

Players: 127

Par: 72

Prize Fund: $300,000 (£175,000)

Length: 6,458 yards (5,905m)

Defending champion: Stacy Lewis

Hull heads to Birkdale living her dream of being a professional golfer. She embraces the attention generated since she won a national women's championship aged nine.

"I enjoy it," she says. "I've been brought up with it since I was younger and it's part of the job.

"Sometimes it's a bit frustrating when I can't tweet what I want when I want to banter with my friends. Sometimes I get a text off my manager saying 'delete' and I think 'oh yeah'."

Hull may find she is soon sharing the spotlight with Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow.

After finishing third on her professional debut at the US Open, the 22-year-old surged through the field with a closing 63 to claim a share of third place in the European Masters on Sunday.

The life of cheeky Charley

She then came through final qualifying for the British Open.

Meadow and Hull are at the vanguard of a growing number of young British stars - including Italian Open winner Florentyna Parker and Holly Clyburn - who seem destined to keep the likes of Scottish veteran Catriona Matthew company at the top of the women's game.

In Hull's case - apart from the odd social media gaffe - there are few other worries, apart from trying to become less reliant on her dad for lifts to Woburn.

That's why she is striving for a driving licence.

"I got told off for speeding in my first lesson because I got something wrong," Hull says.

"What do you call it? The rev counter?" she adds, looking puzzled. "I looked at that and thought I was going 30. I thought, 'oh this is really fast', and when I looked properly, I was actually doing 60."

Hull's is a life lived in the fast lane. In every respect.