Wide-eyed Hull provides youthful boost for Euro squad

Charley Hull drives at the 18th hole during practice for the 2013 Solheim Cup at The Colorado Golf Club.

PARKER, Colo. – It’s difficult to pick a favorite line from Charley Hull’s maiden trip to the press room at the Solheim Cup. Nearly everything that emerged from the 17-year-old’s mouth was met with a headshake from teammate Suzann Pettersen, at Hull’s right elbow. But Pettersen, at conference end, professed to loving the innocence.

Hull’s young voice blew through the sound system right away, when, with unbridled enthusiasm, she answered the opening question posed by the moderator: Are you eager to get going?

“Yeah, it’s human nature to just go out there and win,” Hull said quickly. “Well, try and win a match.”

It was like a comedy routine from there.

Hull fumbled over age references for Pettersen (despite being 15 years Hull’s senior, Pettersen, at 32, hardly is an old lady). Asked for her dream Solheim pairing, Hull searched briefly for an answer before acknowledging that she was digging herself a hole. Next question.

Hull, however, did it all with such wide eyes and upright posture that she served as a refreshing reminder not only of youth, but also a blissful mix of inexperience and naivete.

“The first tee shot, thinking about it, really is no different to hitting a tee shot at my home golf club,” Hull said at one point. “It’s the same swing and stuff, it’s a lot of people, obviously, but I’m just going to think of it like that.”

Hull, among European captain Liselotte Neumann’s four captain’s picks, is at Colorado Golf Club because a handful of the old gals are not. It’s the first time in the Solheim Cup’s 12-year history that Laura Davies did not make the European team, and Karen Stupples (two starts), Maria Hjorth (five) and Sophie Gustafson (eight) also are conspicuous in their absence.

That gives Pettersen and Catriona Matthew, with six Solheim Cup appearances each, three times as much experience as the next most veteran player, Anna Nordqvist. There are six rookies on Europe’s 12-woman team, and the Americans have four.

“We were probably all like this once back in the day, you know,” Pettersen said of Hull. “We didn’t know better.”

And in some arenas, Hull truly doesn’t. However, her non-chalance this week is more of a character trait than a deer-in-the-headlight side effect of women’s golf's biggest stage. There was the time two years ago, after all, when the Ladies Golf Union told Hull she wasn’t eligible for a spot on the GB&I Curtis Cup team because she skipped a practice session for team hopefuls so she could play the Kraft Nabisco Championship. News broke during Kraft week that she had indeed earned a pick, and Hull acknowledged it with a mere shrug and a smile.

At the Curtis Cup, played at Nairn Golf Club in Scotland, Hull sat for opening foursomes, lost both team matches she played then routed college player of the year Lindy Duncan in singles. GB&I won.

If the theme of this year’s Solheim Cup is the welcoming of the next generation, then Hull is the poster child for that. Her name was repeated a handful of times at Wednesday’s Junior Solheim Cup. She was the only player to transition directly from either junior team to the big stage.

At the end of Thursday’s interview, Hull was whisked off for a TV appearance. Minutes before, the European Junior Solheim Cup team had filed out of the media room, field-trip style. Among Hull’s notable traits in the European camp this week is that she has helped bridge the gap between that squad and her own. Junior Solheim Cupper Bronte Law, an 18-year-old Englishwoman, told tales of playing ping-pong with Pettersen and Co. Two years ago, Hull was in that position.

“I knew (Liselotte), she was my Junior Solheim Cup captain and it rocked my world when I won out there and won a couple of points,” Hull said on Thursday. “It would rock my world if I went out there this time and won a couple of points.”

At that statement, laughter once again ensued while Hull, as usual, smiled sweetly.

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