Georgia Hall is a golfer not to be ignored despite the best efforts of the BBC’s Spoty curators
Outrage continues to ripple around the nation and abroad, in bus stops and on beaches, at Georgia Hall’s value to the BBC, and women’s golf to the world. That self-appointed curator of the sporting year judged her contribution to 2018 to be worth a perfunctory ten seconds at Sunday’s Sports Personality of the Year pageant. Gary Lineker could not even spare her a question despite her becoming at 22 a maiden major champion and only the third British winner of the Women’s British Open in 27 years. It seems her appearance was merely a device for one of those sickly smooth Lineker segues into the next item, “and so from Georgia we now travel to Russia”. Yuck.
In a sport dominated by Asia and the United States, Hall’s victory was not only significant in a British context but for Europe too in Solheim Cup year. Of the 42 majors since Catriona Matthew won the British in 2009 only three have fallen to Europeans and none were as callow as Hall. Had the BBC camera’s followed Hall about Bournemouth in the subsequent weeks and months, or Barbados come to that, they might have better understood the impact of her victory at Lytham. And they would have got a laugh too.
“I do get recognised,” she told an audience of golf writers 48 hours before her daft Spoty snub, “but mostly in strange places you wouldn’t think of.” Do tell Georgia. “Someone at a bus stop.” What, you catch a bus? “No I didn’t catch it I was walking past it.” (Cue laughter). Any others? “I was on holiday in Barbados walking down the beach and someone said ‘good win at the Open’.” (more giggles). Was it Lee Westwood? (yet more) “No, it wasn’t him. He was there, though.” (Westy does love a winter break at Sandy Lane). The invisibility of women’s golf is reflected in the struggles presently engulfing the Ladies European Tour, which is fighting for viability without a platform to sell its wares.
Hall, like her contemporary Charley Hull, is a fine example of the potential in a game that still attracts greater participation numbers than tennis among the British population. And around the big events like the British Open and the Solheim Cup, the girls pull a crowd. “I was doing a radio interview in the other side of the room [post Open win]. There must have been about 50 children in there when I walked through the doors. I could not believe it. They all started hugging me, wanting my signature. It meant a lot to me that they were inspired by me winning.
“It is amazing the effect it has had. I have had text message, social media, so many young girls who came up to me that week wanting pictures that I have [since] heard have gone to the range now with their dads and started playing golf. It means a lot to me. I want to try to encourage young children into golf. Hopefully in ten years time we will have someone similar winning it.”
Hall came to prominence at the British Open last year when a tie for third earned her a Solheim Cup debut as the highest ranked European qualifier. The two foursome points she returned as a rookie playing alongside Anna Nordqvist highlighted not only her gifts but the temperament that would ensure she kept her nerve in August when chasing down that first major at Lytham.
“People thought because I was a rookie [Solheim] I would be nervous and wouldn’t play to my standard but me coming third in the British Open the week before gave me a lot of confidence and qualifying no.1 I knew my game was in a good place. I really enjoyed the experience and being on that stage, the crowds were unbelievable, I had never seen anything like it.”
Her rivalry with supernova Hull, three weeks her senior and only one vowel removed, is the stuff of sporting narrative dreams. The pair go way back as juniors and as seniors are the principal reference point for each other. Hull was one of the first to congratulate Hall on her success. Civilities aside, Hall’s observations lead you to suspect the outcome only served to sharpen the Hull blades.
Best of enemies
“We have known each other since we were ten. We did England golf together and were always partners with each other so we are very well aware of each other and where our golf is at. She turned professional a couple of years before me so she got kind of a head start. I continued being amateur until I was 18 and therefore she played on the European Tour earlier and managed to get that experience and then the LPGA. So for a couple of years I was a little bit behind experience-wise.
“I would always hear Charley [this] Charley [that], but it didn’t bother me at all. I just focused on myself and my golf. She has a great career already and played on three Solheims. I’m sure for the next 15 years we are going to be up and down with each other.”
Hall and Hull were one of two stellar female pairings at the European Tour’s innovative and evolving Golf Sixes team event that saw women invited for the first time in 2018. Europe’s Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup skippers, Thomas Bjorn and Catriona Malcolm, also played in a pairing that might yet prompt the game to come to its senses and roll out a ton of mixed team events. And on the tee Rory McIlroy and Georgie Hall, Tommy Fleetwood and Charley Hull, Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie. Come on stakeholders, sponsors, broadcasters, what are you waiting for?
Hall adds her voice to the clamour for greater cross pollination. “Apart from the Open this year that was one of my highlights. I love to compete against the men. As individual professionals we don’t get to play in team events a lot. It was great fun. I think we could get maybe a proper team event where males and females play together.”
For now it’s back to the range to prepare for 2019. A second major, a maiden win in America and ultimately world no.1 are the targets. You never know, she might even get to speak to the great Gary. “As long as I keep having good tournaments week in week out then that is the main thing. I wasn’t about winning for me [British Open]. It just wanted to play four good rounds. But now my confidence has grown massively and I am really looking forward to next year to see what it can bring.”
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