LAKE NONA, FLORIDA | She just seemed more chipper. The long putt on the 72nd hole for birdie to secure a tie for second at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions didn’t hurt, although Charley Hull had no idea where she had finished until she asked a gaggle of reporters in the media tent long after signing her card. Still, Hull, who is always a bundle of energy, seemed happy, not in the fleeting way that a good round of golf or a home-team victory brings, but in a way that people would describe as “centered” and “at peace.” For the first time, perhaps in her entire career, Charley looked like she was right where she belonged.
Big life changes will do that. For starters, she has moved to Sunningdale outside London. She’s just bought a house in an area she loves and where friends are nearby.
Also, she spent some time over the break in Morocco where she focused solely on her game and getting herself mentally and physically sharp for the upcoming season.
Perhaps most of all, as silly as it seems, she got her driver’s license for the first time at age 26
“So in England it's a lot harder than it is over here (in America),” Hull said on Sunday in Florida of the reasons this is such a big deal. “You've got to have so many hours and drive around the town with a driving instructor. Then before that you’ve got to go into a place and do all the questions.
“I started driving after CME (in November) and I passed my test in four weeks, so I was pretty happy with that. I only had three minors (mistakes) out of 15. You could get 15 (test points) wrong but I only got three wrong, and that was right toward the end because I didn't put my indicator on. Yeah, I’m pretty happy with that.
“Hopefully I'm going to be a good driver.”
The reason she decided to get behind the wheel now ties in with her other life changes.
“Truthfully it’s because my boyfriend lives in Sunningdale and I lived in Ketrin,” she said. “So, if I want to go back and see my family (in Ketrin) I'm going to have to drive there and not rely on taxis. I thought that's a good reason why. It saves people from running me around.”
Driving late is not unusual on the LPGA Tour, especially for players who came out early in life and had family members with them. Lydia Ko didn’t drive until she was in her 20s. Brooke Henderson still doesn’t have a license at age 25. Maja Stark, age 23, just got her license last year.
Hull turned pro at 17.
“I feel like because I'm away so much it was actually hard to pass my driving test,” Hull said. “My sister, she's 45 and still waiting to pass her test. The thing is like - it must run in the family - it can be hard to get a driving test. I got mine, luckily, because I paid extra. You can be waiting up to six months to get a test.”
The house isn’t the only recent purchase, either.
“I've already got a car,” Hull said. “I land (in London) at 8:45 Tuesday morning and get my car delivered to me about 9:30. So I go straight in and get it. I wanted a Defender, the new Land Rover Defender, but I can't get insured in it because it's too much of a fast car. So I got a Range Rover instead, a small one, Evoque.
“That will do for now because I think probably having a big car straightaway isn't good, especially on the small roads in England.”
With that, she smiled, waved, and bid everyone some good time off. Happy. Content. Charley Hull seems to be in a really good place.