Omega Dubai Ladies Masters: Charley Hull on holidaying in Ibiza, the Olympics and being ‘normal’

The young English golfer speaks to John McAuley about her preparations for the Rio Games, winning on both the US and European circuits and how her fast-rising profile will not change her.

Charley Hull of England in action during the pro-am ahead of the 2016 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club on December 6, 2016 in Dubai, UAE.  David Cannon / Getty Images
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DUBAI // It says a lot about Charley Hull’s temperament that she geared up to represent her country at this summer’s Olympics by holidaying in Ibiza.

That is not to imply the star of English golf does not take her profession seriously – she “loves getting the buzz of the big tournaments” – but it probably explains how a young woman of such considerable talent seemingly takes everything in her stride.

Take the Olympics. Instead of spending the build-up contemplating the implications of competing under her national flag, of playing for much more than the individual in a heavily individualised sport, Hull took time away from the glare. To the typically boisterous Balearic island, then. Hardly what would constitute coaching-manual prep-work.

“It’s really fun,” Hull says from sponsors Omega’s chalet at the Dubai Ladies Masters, the final stop on the 2016 Ladies European Tour (LET). “I’ve been there five times in the past year, so I really enjoy it. Me and a couple of my friends go, just have a good time.

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“People think it’s ‘go’ all the time out there, but it was quite a nice, relaxing one.”

It all worked out all right for the Olympics anyway. Hull played well for the majority of the tournament in Rio, at one time looking good for a medal before finishing seventh. Ibiza obviously rocks.

“I was just kind of going with the flow,” she says. “I was playing good golf going into it, so didn’t really have too much pressure on me. You just have to relax and treat it like another event.

“Obviously, it’s not just another event, it’s like a major, but I just enjoyed it, took the whole experience in. That was awesome. You can’t beat having being an Olympian on your CV. It’s pretty cool.”

Her recent exploits could be filed under “pretty cool”, too. Last month, Hull won her first LPGA Tour event, a record-breaking victory at the CME Group Tour Championship where she reeled off a bogey-free 66 on Sunday in Florida to clinch the title.

At 20, she has a win on the leading women’s golf circuit, one on its European counterpart, a LET Rookie of the Year crown and its Order of Merit honours, also. So, what next now she has cracked America?

“I haven’t cracked America,” she says, laughing. “But it was good to have a win out there. It gave me a lot of confidence, although I never really got too high off it, because I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Yeah I’ve won, but now that’s over and done.”

It did not exactly spark Ibiza-esque celebrations, either.

“I flew out straight after doing media ... then went out at the weekend with friends,” says Hull, the current world No 26. “I was on a high for only the flight back and then it was ‘OK, need to go back to work’. I felt I needed to prove I can win again on the LPGA Tour.”

If Hull’s career was not already on a sharp upwards trajectory, then the success in the US only steepens the curve. It will bring even more attention with it, where the spotlight is sure to shine more intently on British golf’s great hope as she attempts to capture major trophies – she was tied-second at this year’s ANA Inspiration – and eventually reach golf’s summit.

However, Hull insists the fast-rising profile will not change her.

“I don’t really look into it too much,” she says. “All I think is that I just hit a golf ball around a field. And I’m pretty good at it. At the end of the day, I’m just a normal person and I like being out with my friends.

“There’s more limelight, but I’m never really interested in that stuff. I’m not all about being famous or any of that. I just want to play golf and be with my friends and stuff.”

The apparent nonchalance masks a commendable work ethic. Hull is incredibly dedicated to golf, a genuine passion that demands she rarely takes much time away from the game, trips to Ibiza apart.

Yet she realises the importance of having other distractions, an approach that has helped her handle the stresses and strains that come with life in the public eye. Clearly, she has found the right formula.

“At the end of the day, you only live once and you don’t want to live it too engrossed in one thing or the other,” Hull says. “You’ve got to have balance – and I feel like I have a good balance – and got to turn on, turn off. You have to learn how to switch off and that’s what I do with my friends. I think I balance it pretty well.

“When I was younger, I didn’t quite have it as much. I went through a point where I, literally two years ago, all I did was golf, golf, golf, and it kind of made me a bit ill. It was really weird. After that, I loosened up a bit and it’s helped me, having a good time with my friends.”

The pressures of attempting to forge a path in the game can at times become too much for some, though. American Paige Spiranac, the emerging golfer regularly labelled an "internet sensation", broke down in tears during Monday's pre-tournament press conference when discussing the bullying she often encounters on social media.

A regular on Twitter and Instagram herself, albeit without the following Spiranac has, Hull is wary of the negatives, of the people intent on trying to bring her down. But she has resolved to pay little heed.

“When you first go on it, it’s like ‘Ah, people are saying stuff’, but at the end of the day I just laugh about it now,” says Hull, who has upwards of 40,600 followers on Twitter. “I’m just like, ‘Ha ha, I don’t really care’.

“At the end of the day, Paige is just a golfer and has a big following on social media. But if you’ve got that big a following, you’ve got to be used to people saying bad stuff about you, because not everyone’s going to like you. People are going to be jealous.

“Screw them and just carry on what you’re doing. It’s the way you’ve got to be in life, isn’t it? It’s too short to have people putting you down.”

The outlook explains why Hull appears at ease with everything around her. That extends to this week in Dubai, when she is targeting a win, aiming to improve on her two top-10 finishes in her three appearances thus far there. Then there is a little time off over Christmas and back into competitive action for what Hull hopes to be an even better 2017.

“Hopefully I can get a couple of wins and keep playing good golf and see what happens,” Hull says with a shrug. “Just keep on having fun.”

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