Annika Sorenstam: Solheim Cup captain impressed by Charley Hull and Bronte Law

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen
Annika Sorenstam (left) will lead Europe in the Solheim Cup in August

Europe's greatest female golfer, Annika Sorenstam, says Charley Hull's first LPGA victory can act as a springboard for the young English player's career.

But Sorenstam told BBC Sport that there remains room for maturity in Hull's game to fully harness her huge potential.

The Swede, who won 90 tournaments worldwide including 10 majors, also discussed the prospects of another young British player, Bronte Law, who is turning professional after success at the LPGA Tour school.

Sorenstam is looking forward to captaining Europe for the first time when the continent seeks to wrestle back the Solheim Cup at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, Iowa, next August.

And there is every chance that Hull, the 20-year-old from Kettering, will be a member of that European side. She would be playing, remarkably, in her third Solheim Cup.

Who is Charley Hull's favourite Doctor Who?

It was as a vice-captain in Denver three years ago that Sorenstam first encountered the then 17 year old and she was instantly impressed by Hull's unassuming and natural character.

"I was charmed by her," Sorenstam said. "She was just this innocent young lady with a lot of potential."

Hull delivered on the promise of her teenage years with a thrilling victory at the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship last month, when she won by two shots after finishing 19 under par.

"She has a big game and it was just a matter of time before she was going to break through," Sorenstam said. "Sometimes a player of that calibre might just need one for the gates to open."

But it is clear that Sorenstam does not believe Hull, ranked 16 in the world, is the finished article. "She hits the ball very well and has a good short game, but she's still very young and it is just a case of maturing.

"She has her plan about how to go about things and she doesn't seem to be much of an analyser; she's happy-go-lucky. When you are that age there are a lot of interests, friends and so forth, and I think you get a little more focused with age.

Charley Hull
Charley Hull won the season-ending CME Championship

"I think she could be even a top-10 player in the world because of her skill. Refine a few things here and there and she is set up for success."

The 46-year-old from Bro, near Stockholm, advocates a careful coaching approach for Hull to make sure it tallies with her natural instincts. "If someone came in and was very structured I'm not sure that would fit in," she said.

"The recipe for success is very different for different players. You have to find your own way.

"And for her it is maybe to find a way to be more consistent and stay focused through the round, learn how to throw away bad shots and not carry them on and keep on fighting.

"Again, she's young; just tighten up that swing a little bit and have clear goals. I'm not sure her goals are totally clear for her other than 'I'm having a good time'."

While Hull looks a very strong candidate for the Swedish legend's European team, next year's Solheim Cup may come too soon for Law, another precocious British talent.

Annika Sorenstam
Sorenstam won 10 majors, with 72 victories on the LPGA Tour

But who knows? The 21-year-old from Stockport has already played in three Curtis Cup contests, becoming the first Great Britain and Ireland player to win all five matches in this year's victory over the amateur women of the United States.

Now Law is leaving the University of California, Los Angeles to turn professional with partial playing rights on the LPGA Tour already gained thanks to finishing 24th at Tour School earlier this month.

Having won the 2016 "Annika" award for being the outstanding collegiate golfer in America, Law has completed an extraordinary amateur career and she is clearly on the captain's radar.

"She's a fantastic young lady," commented the woman after whom this coveted award is named.

"I have had the chance to spend some time with her. With Bronte you know her future is going to be bright and things will fall into place. She has the skill and has the desire to play on the tour.

"I think she has a great head on her shoulders. She's very mature."

Sorenstam is aware of the amount of youth at the top of the women's game. Lydia Ko, who surprisingly split with coach David Leadbetter last week, rose to world number one three months before her 18th birthday.

Ko's closest rivals in the rankings are Ariya Jutanugarn (21), In Gee Chun (22), Shanshan Feng (27) and Lexi Thompson (21).

"They are good at a younger age these days thanks to coaching and the golf initiatives around the world," said the Solheim Cup captain.

Lydia Ko
New Zealand's Lydia Ko, 19, has already won two majors

"But there's no rush to get out on tour. It's like a ladder - don't skip three steps to get to the top because, who knows, on the way down if you skip them there is nobody to catch you."

And no-one knows better the journey of reaching the top of those golfing steps. Perhaps Sorenstam's biggest challenge as skipper is to make sure her team are not inhibited by being in awe of her legendary status.

Speaking after being honoured at this month's HSBC Golf Business Forum, she remains modest in acknowledging that this is a potential issue. "It is very true and I think that number one is to be a good captain and you have to be yourself," she said.

"You have to be authentic but you also have to let them know that you are human and that you are with them and supporting them. The bottom line is it is about communication and getting to know each other.

"Yes there are a lot of younger players that I didn't walk the fairways with, so for me that means I have to really give them a chance to get to know me so that I can get to know them.

"It's certainly not about me. I've had my moments in Solheim Cups. I would love for them to shine and for them to experience what I have experienced in the past because there is nothing like it."

Having played in eight matches and twice served as a vice-captain, no-one can question Sorenstam's passion for the event. "I am competitive and I'm sure that's going to come through - hopefully in a good way," she smiled.

Everything she says is laced with common sense and it is hard not to believe that her team, which will almost certainly include Hull and possibly Law, will benefit immeasurably from the time they spend in the skipper's company.


Join the conversation

These comments are now closed.


Top Stories