Golf365 Profile: Ricoh Women’s British Open champion Georgia Hall

Matt Cooper on the rise of the 22-year-old and a journey which has confounded the notion of building successful golfers by throwing opportunities at them.

In the week of the Ricoh Women’s British Open, long before Georgia Hall provided women’s golf in Great Britain and Ireland with such a sensational boost by winning, Jessica Korda was asked about Asian superiority on the LPGA and what could be done about it.

“Honestly,” answered Korda, “I think they have a better development programme for juniors. You see Koreans are dominating. They have a national team, golf is expensive, they pay for that. They travel to different countries and they play a bunch.

“I feel the U.S. doesn’t have a national team and somebody to help golfers go through the process. There’s no camps. Basically kids play AJGA (a junior series) to try and get into college.”

For Americans in the room (and beyond) it was a serious question: How can we start winning, and competing, more?

For this English observer it felt like he was in the middle of a bizarre “the grass is greener” parlour game because if you were to ask many British golfers trying to earn a crust on professional circuits they will bemoan the fact that many European nations have excellent systems in place to support players making the transfer from the amateur game into the paid ranks.

Meanwhile, all of those golfers this side of the Atlantic will have been told, with a kind of evangelistic zeal, that the finest route to the top of the sport is via the U.S. college system.

Guess what? Turns out the locals there are spending more and more time fondly regarding someone else’s arrangement. Give it ten years and the Koreans will be ruing that China has a bigger population and therefore more potential golfers.

And yet by the end of the week the champion might have provided the genuine answer to this worldwide organisational angst because Georgia Hall probably had it tougher than all of them and yet, far from impeding her progress to major championship success and a place in the world’s top ten, her difficulties probably fuelled those achievements.

During her successful amateur career Hall was ferried around Britain by her parents from their home on the south coast. Sometimes they would take her to Woodhall Spa, headquarters of England Golf (who it must be noted provided plenty of expert advice), and drive back before making the trip again to collect her because to stay up there for two or three days was an expense they couldn’t really afford.

Hall also estimates that she missed out on three major championship starts as an amateur because the costs of a Trans-Atlantic trip were just too great.

Above and beyond financial constraints Hall was also blessed by a decision which at the time must have infuriated her: she was controversially left out of the 2012 Curtis Cup team.

It’s an irony of the amateur game that those running it are charged with creating stepping stones to the top and yet often tripping on those steps can have greater long term power than gaily skipping up them. Hall is, and was, competitive, ambitious and hungry: watching from the sidelines as GB&I won for the first time in seven matches must have hurt, but perhaps it helped. Nothing motivates like fury.

It’s also possible that the attention Charley Hull has always received has impacted on Hall. Born just a month apart, Hull was first to hit the pro ranks, first to win, first to play the Solheim Cup, first to lift an LPGA trophy. “We go for dinner and are good friends,” Hall said at Royal Lytham, “but we’re-” a laugh that revealed a truth “-we’re really competitive!”

Nor did life become easier upon joining the paid ranks because professional expenses are greater than amateur ones. Towards the end of 2014 she won a Mercedes-Benz for making a hole-in-one and yet she told me last year: “I took the money alternative. I really needed it.”

She progressed through the ranks of the Ladies European Tour, proving that the circuit can still be a nurturing ground for world class talent. Intriguingly she was always making decisions and observations that gave her the tools to overcome future hurdles, rather than seeking a helping hand.

“I know how to spend time on my own,” she said. “That’s important in golf. It’s partially why I moved out of home quite early. I’m trying to teach my brain as much as myself to cope.”

She had watched Jordan Spieth’s 13th hole dramatics at last year’s Open with interest. “That’s some mental strength isn’t it? It proved you just don’t give up if you want it badly enough.”

A week later she turned a bad day around to claim an LPGA top ten in the ASI Ladies Scottish Open. “Definitely some Spieth motivation in there,” she explained.

It’s perhaps no surprise that she thrives on links golf saying: “If you get bad bounces? Stay patient. Windy? Use it.”

It might almost be a mantra for her career, not just her mindset by the seaside.

It might also be something for those peering elsewhere to consider. Maybe the answer is not to provide more, but to build golfers more adept at dealing with adversity.