Charley and the New Tour – The nerve!
In my generation, there was a sense of formality between established veterans and up-and-coming youth, the same type of buffer that was normal between parents and children in many cases. There was talk of “paying dues” and “coming of age.” If one excelled as a young person, he or she became a “person to watch.” For the player just starting out, there was a touch of inappropriateness in just going out and winning right off the bat. Of course, prodigies have always been present, but sports society imposed a type of apprenticeship on them, whether or not they accepted it. What was truly appropriate was to speak endlessly of how fortunate it was to be here, included in such illustrious company, and to express the hope that someday, one would join the ranks of the legendary.
As it does in every generation, a new wave of greats has come along, but this wave is saying “no,” sometimes politely and sometimes not, to the waiting game. They may respect the players dominating the tour, or even feel particularly inspired by certain personalities, but apprentices? Pay dues? No way. Nerves? Sure, but these kids aren’t going to surrender to it. Competition is competition, and the new LPGA stars-to-be are ready to start winning right now – some of them seem downright insistent on it.
There is a requirement for composure and grace under pressure in almost every profession. However, where an author can hide away from feedback, if you kick it, hit it over a net or swing at it, you’ll be in the public eye from the very start – some can cut it, and some can’t. There are different ways to handle pressure. Some become aggressive as a way of fighting back, and that is a two-edged sword. It can bolster the spirit, or it can cost the newcomer in terms of control. Some respond through being quietly intimidated, with a good enough poker face to ensure that we don’t see it. Or, one can utterly collapse. We often assign this condition to those who experience disastrous final holes in final rounds, although it isn’t always correct to do so. The golf swing comes in and out of phase – every weekender knows that – and when it decides to leave, it’s like being abandoned in a poker game by Lady Luck herself.
And then, of course, there’s Charley Hull. Those of us who saw the young Briton coming a year or so ago may have been less surprised than most, but we were still caught up short by her wrecking ball performance against Paula Creamer, who has an excellent record at the Solheim. Charley is not, by her own admission, immune to nerves, but she has mastered a certain art of indifference to opposition and the myth of greatness in rivals that endows her with an extraordinary maturity. Paula is not the first victim, as Hull has dismantled respected veterans from her first victory at the UK National Ladies Championship – at the age of nine.
Charley even has the correct vocabulary to affirm this condition of serenity – case in point, “Golf is my job, and I’m pretty good at it.” Within that statement is both a modesty and a warning, that she isn’t afraid of you, no matter where you reside on the golf mountain. Not that I completely buy it – I was seventeen once, and when I did something well, I really dug it big time inwardly, even if my words were publicly unassuming. No, I believe that the atmosphere she creates is a tool for mastering pressure, and she’s got it down to a science.
It isn’t just Charley, but a quality of her generation. Lydia Ko smiled and sauntered her way to winning the Canadian Open, and Lexi Thompson has never genuflected to anyone before a match or tournament. That old formality is all but gone now. Everyone who gets into these events is taken seriously, and is granted full membership – and while membership has its privileges, winning gets you the key to the board room. That’s probably where you’ll find Charley very soon.