- Alistair Tait
Charley Hull's Curtis Cup legacy
Charley Hull is synonymous with women’s professional golf in the United Kingdom. She’s left a lasting legacy to amateur golf.
Hull’s experience means top ranked amateurs now have to be included in Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup teams. Hard to believe the English player was nearly left off the 2012 GB&I team.
The Curtis Cup was due to finish today at Conwy Golf Club in Wales. The coronavirus means it will be staged next year instead. The top two players on the World Amateur Golf Rankings are guaranteed spots on next year’s Great Britain & Ireland team. They can thank Hull for that.
Scroll back to the 2012 match at Nairn and the then 15 year old was originally tossed off the GB&I team because she decided to skip a team practice session at Nairn to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. It was a strange decision considering Hull was the highest ranked English woman in the world at number nine on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
A Curtis Cup selection panel chose the eight-player GB&I team eight years ago. All squad players signed an agreement to play in a practice session at the host venue a few months before the mach. Part of that agreement was that any player who skipped the practice session would not be selected for the match. Thus, Hull’s decision to play in her first major championship made her persona non-grata as far as the Ladies Golf Union was concerned.
Sadly, it wasn’t the first Curtis Cup selection controversy. The LGU had previous on leaving good players off GB&I teams.
Scotland’s Gillian Stewart played in the 1980 and 1982 Curtis Cups yet was inexplicably left out of the 1984 match even though some considered her the best woman golfer in the British Isles, amateur or professional.
Becky Brewerton played in the 2000 match yet somehow wasn’t selected to the 2002 GB&I team even though everyone felt she should have been, everyone except the selectors.
I like to think I played a small part in helping Hull play in the 2012 match. The decision to throw her off the team seemed so unfair I got in touch with past GB&I players to get their reactions and wrote about them in Golfweek.
Three-time Curtis Cup player Catriona Matthew called the decision “bizarre.”
“When you’ve got the chance to play in a major, that experience would help more than playing in a Curtis Cup training session,” Matthew added.
Fellow Women’s British Open winner Karen Stupples, who played in the 1996 and 1998 Curtis Cups, said:
“The LGU are hurting their chances of winning. Charley’s incredibly talented. The fact she’s been invited to play in the Kraft Nabisco proves that. If we want to win the Curtis Cup we’ve got to take the best team possible.”
“It’s very short sighted of the LGU and I think they should reconsider.”
The LGU did exactly that. Thankfully common sense prevailed and Hull was chosen to play in the 2012 match. She delivered an important winning point in the final singles with a 5&3 victory over Lindy Duncan as GB&I won 10 ½ - 9 ½.
The Hull fiasco ensured the selection system changed for the 2014 Curtis Cup at St Louis Country Club. The GB&I team consisted of the top four players off the WAGR table and four players chosen by captain Tegwen Matthews and her panel of selectors.
The current system isn’t quite as generous to the WAGR rankings. This year’s team was to consist of the top two players in the world followed by six selections. Still, at least two players next year will not suffer the same fate Hull nearly suffered eight years ago.
Although Hull was messed around more than a 15 year old should have been, her legacy means GB&I players high on the WAGR rankings now get Curtis Cup places.