NAIRN, Scotland – Sixteen-year-old Charley Hull enters the 37th Curtis Cup with advice from arguably England’s best current match-play player ringing in her ears.
“Be respectful but ruthless.”
That’s the advice Ian Poulter gave his younger clubmate. Poulter knows a thing or three about match play. He has helped Europe win two of three Ryder Cups, and holds an 8-3 won-loss record in the biennial match.
Hull is a member of Woburn Golf Club, where Poulter has a long attachment as the tournament professional. They got a chance to play together last month, and Hull asked Poulter for advice on how to handle Curtis Cup pressure.
“Be extremely respectful to your opponent, but be utterly ruthless, too,” Hull said, recalling the conversation. “Never relax, because if you do, you can lose easily.”
The Englishman told the current No. 5 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking to expect her opponent to come up with the unexpected.
“Don’t ever think you’ve won a hole before you’ve actually won it, because that’s dangerous. Don’t think because you’ve hit the green in two and your opponent is in the rough or a bunker that you’re going to win the hole.
“Expect them to hole from off the green or out of the bunker. It happens. I’ve seen it and experienced it. You can easily get complacent and switch off thinking you’ve either won a hole or are going to win the match. You can’t switch off, because if your opponent comes back at you, then it’s very hard to switch back on.”
Poulter gave the example of playing fellow Englishman Tom Lewis in qualifying for last month’s Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain. Poulter found one green in two and watched as Lewis took a penalty drop from a hazard. Lewis then holed his third shot for birdie. Poulter two-putted and lost the hole.
“That sort of thing happens in match play all the time, and you have to be prepared for it,” Poulter said.
Hull is the strongest GB&I player at Nairn. She warmed up for the biennial match by making the cut in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, her first major, and finished T-38. A month ago, she finished fifth in the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour, her first LET event.
The teenager has a pretty good match-play record, too. Last year she won the Jones-Doherty Match Play Championship on Florida’s Orange Blossom Tour. However, she’ll cherish the advice she got from Poulter as she plays in her first Curtis Cup.
“I’ve taken all of what he told me on board,” Hull said. “It was interesting what he said about the times when your opponent is in a bunker and you can’t switch off. You’ve got to keep pushing yourself every match.
“He’s been a great inspiration to me. I think his mind-set is fantastic. He’s so strong-minded, and I think that’s how he’s got as far as he’s got. I’ve never met anyone who’s more confident. He’s just so positive. What he said to me should help me this week. I’m just going to try my hardest every match.”
GB&I will need Hull and her seven teammates to be in ruthless moods over the next three days if the Curtis Cup is to come back across the Atlantic for the first time since 1996.
Will the Poulter spirit power Hull to help the home team to a famous victory?