RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Charley Hull first came to the California desert days before celebrating her 16th birthday. The 2012 ANA Inspiration marked her first time competing in an LPGA event, much less a major, and the fearless Hull marched out and birdied the first hole.
“I remember that well,” said her father, Dave, beaming with pride.
Hull loves it here. She loves eating barbecue salmon at Babe’s with Brussels sprouts and corn on the cob. She loves the low-calorie menu at the Cheesecake Factory.
“I’m very comfortable here,” said Hull, who still lives back home with her parents in Kettering, England.
Hull, now playing her fourth ANA, tied for 38th in her debut on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course four years ago. In 2014, she tied for seventh and last year collected her first paycheck at Mission Hills Country Club as a pro after taking a share of 26th.
The opening round of the 2016 ANA Inspiration offered perfect scoring conditions for the morning wave. Hull birdied her last two holes to shoot 2-under 70, three strokes back of leader Ai Miyazato.
“I just had one probably bad hole, which was the 16th,” said Hull, who missed her drive right and made bogey. If ever there was a tournament that seemed suited for England’s finest, Mission Hills fits the bill.
On March 20, Hull turned 20 and celebrated with her mates back home in England. The truth is, Hull doesn’t seem too different now than she did at 16 years of age. She’s still the same carefree Charley, a natural talent who likes to “get on with it” as the Brits like to say.
“Off the course she’s just the same as she is on the course to be honest,” said elder Brit Catriona Matthew, “which is unusual.”
Dave Hull stands in stark contrast to most LPGA dads. He didn’t even watch Charley play the first round. He turned up at the end by the scoring tent for a chat and some lunch, eager to share pictures of the family’s new German Shepherd.
“I’m full up with golf,” Dave said. “It’s her game; it isn’t my game.”
Hull now mostly travels the globe on her own. She’s well-liked on tour to be sure, but also happy in her own company. Dave told his youngest daughter he’s available to come out anytime she needs him, but he doesn’t expect to attend another tournament until the Ricoh Women’s British Open in late July, which happens to be held on Hull’s home track, Woburn Golf Club.
Hull has yet to obtain a driver’s license, even though she is sponsored by BMW. She relies on her father to drive the X3 or X1 she has on loan. He doesn’t mind. At a driving lesson last year, Dave said, Hull’s instructor pointed out she was going 30 k.p.h. over the speed limit.
“She’ll probably drive like she plays golf – quick,” he said.
Hull can’t drive, but she knows how to swim. Her choice of entry into Poppie’s Pond – the belly flop – says everything about her personality.
“Take it all in,” she said, “leave myself with a mark on my face for a little memory.”
The Hull family doesn’t look too far ahead. They like to enjoy the moment, and the way Dave sees it, Charley needs time off with her mates in England as much as she needs the majors.
“With this game,” he said, “you can’t turn on unless you’ve turned off.”
Bring on the flop.