Charley Hull: A stellar 2014 with shades of the young Rory McIlroy

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Charley Hull plays her second shot into the third green during the final round of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters
Charley Hull plays her second shot into the third green during the final round of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters

In a change from her usual routine, Charley Hull plans to give herself a break on Christmas Day and allow herself the chance to toast another season of stunning success.

In recent years, while the rest of us have been tucking into our turkey and trimmings, the 18-year-old has been pounding golf balls on the range.

That's the level of application required when you are putting yourself on a fast track to the top of the golfing world.

The extra effort has been well worthwhile, with Hull this year making the unprecedented leap from Rookie of the Year to Order of Merit winner on the Ladies European Tour (LET).

But having banked £208,500 in only her second full year on the circuit, Hull is entitled to feel justified in taking a more restful and traditional approach to the Christmas festivities.

In 2014 she has come of age in every respect and that's why she won't be practising on the big day. "I did last year," she said. "And I did in previous years, but I don't think I'm going to this year because I'm 18 and I can drink."

Charley Hull's rapid rise
Aged nine: Won the UK National Ladies' Championships at Turnberry
Aged 10: Played with Morgan Pressel in British Open Pro-Am
Aged 14: Highest-ranked English female amateur golfer in the world
Aged 16: Won her singles match against Lindy Duncan as part of the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team in 2012
Aged 17: Made her professional debut, played in the Solheim Cup, won her first tournament and name Rookie of the Year on the Ladies European Tour
Aged 18: Finishes top of the Order of Merit on the European Tour

Don't be alarmed. This isn't a prodigious talent careering headlong off the rails, more a sign of a player possessing plenty of perspective and an engaging sense of humour.

Having burst onto the professional scene with five consecutive runner-up finishes last year, Hull has kicked on impressively and there's been no sign of any kind of "second season syndrome".

This year she recorded her first win with victory at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco in March, an achievement she ranks higher than her money list title.

But the Order of Merit crown speaks volumes for the teenager's consistency. She had four other top-four finishes before coming fifth in the season-ending finale in Dubai last week.

All of this was completed in a season where Hull was centre of attention on the LET. She has a charismatic and aggressive approach that makes her compelling viewing.

A brilliant 2013 Solheim Cup debut in Denver, where she became the youngest player in the women's version of the Ryder Cup, also ensured she would play her golf firmly in the spotlight.

Hull was part of a record-breaking European victory, collecting two points in an 18-10 triumph that included an emphatic 5&4 triumph over Paula Creamer in the Sunday singles.

Charley Hull on 'wicked' Europe win

She was the media darling that week, as well as a refreshing hit in the European team room. And all the attention didn't faze the Kettering youngster at all.

It has continued apace throughout 2014 and she has embraced it with an ease that is reminiscent of Rory McIlroy's early progression in the men's game.

"When I was younger, I played a lot of amateur stuff and did well in that," Hull said in Dubai last week. "So the media has been gradual and that's helped me a lot.

"I don't feel like it's all of a sudden been piled on top of me, which has helped me from back then.

"I have been coping because it's been a good thing to have my friends help me take my mind off golf and not be so switched on all the time.

"My dad travels with me. My dad isn't just my dad; he's a good friend. Bits like that always help to take the pressure off."

But Hull also recognises that attention goes hand in hand with performance and that's why she is happy to embrace it.

"It's good if the media are interested, because it shows that you are playing well."

For the first time in her pro career Hull didn't have her father at her side in Dubai. Dave Hull, a retired plasterer, needed to be elsewhere but the youngster still prospered in his absence.

There are still a few rough edges to her game and her decision-making will become more pragmatic and less optimistically gung-ho as she matures.

Refreshingly, Hull is no great hurry to de-camp full-time to the more lucrative LPGA Tour. She did try to gain a full card at Tour School but would have played on both sides of the Atlantic if she'd been successful.

Charley Hull tees off on the eighth hole during the third round of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters
England's Charley Hull has become the youngest winner of the European Order of Merit after finishing tied for fifth at the Dubai Ladies Masters

As it was, she gained conditional status, which will offer some American opportunities next year. But the highly competitive LET will again be her staple and it will offer the perfect environment for her to develop further.

Hull will also set her sights on the majors. Last year she challenged in the Kraft Nabisco, won by a contemporary in Lexi Thompson, and was in the picture in the Women's British Open until a final-round 78.

Turnberry, the venue for that event next year, looks a good fit for Hull's game and, given that her golfing hero is Seve Ballesteros, she surely possesses the imagination to prosper on links courses.

As and when she gets opportunities in the US, she will be able to use her prodigious ball-striking to full effect on longer layouts.

There's also a home Solheim Cup to look forward to in Germany next September.

It all amounts to an exciting future for a player now ranked 38 in the world, having been as high as 26 earlier in the year.

More immediately, there's the chance to celebrate a superb 2014 and Christmas Day seems like the perfect opportunity.


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