Hull aims to repeat feat at CME Group Tour Championship

(Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- A year has passed since Charley Hull, the toast of English golf and one of the world's up-and-coming players, captured the CME Group Tour Championship at the age of 20 to claim her first victory on the LPGA Tour.

Since that breakthrough triumph at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., Hull has not returned to the winner's circle, but her 2017 campaign has still been a success.

Hull has finished in the top 10 three times this season -- most recently forging a tie for sixth at the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship in South Korea. She also had three top 20 showings in the Tour's recent Asia swing.

Last year, Hull played brilliant golf when she turned in back-to-back 66s in the final two rounds to claim the championship. She finished at 19-under-par to defeat South Korea's So Yeon Ryu by two strokes.

"I was really buzzing to get my first win on the LPGA at the end of 2016," Hull said. "The field at the CME Group Tour Championship was really strong and I had a great week from start to finish and a lot of good shots that paid off."

Given her recent form, Hull has a lot of confidence as she heads back to Naples and the LPGA Tour Championship to defend her crown. She has a matter-of-fact strategy that allows her to play golf and compete at the highest level with minimal pressure.

"I don't really like to set too many goals," Hull said. "I will keep focusing on good shots, as each good shot leads to a good hole and lots of good holes lead to a good round, which leads to a good tournament. This is my second full year on the LPGA, and it means I've had a bit more flexibility about which events I wanted to play in."

Hull has been a force in the women's game since before she turned professional at the age of 17. She was first introduced to golf when she was 2 years old and began playing with her father at Kettering Golf Club in England. She left school when she was 13 to be home schooled and started playing in amateur tournaments.

She made her professional debut in March 2013 and reeled off five consecutive second-place finishes on the Ladies European Tour. With five additional top-10 finishes that season, Hull finished sixth on the tour's Order of Merit despite playing in just 15 official events and won the LET Rookie of the Year award.

In August 2013, Hull was selected by European Solheim Cup captain Liselotte Neumann to compete in the 2013 edition of the event. Then 17, she became the youngest person ever to play in the tournament.

The team was the first European Solheim squad to win on United States soil, with a final score of 18-10. Hull contributed two points, including a 5 & 4 singles win over Paula Creamer.

On March 16, 2014, four days shy of her 18th birthday, Hull won her first professional title at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco. She overcame a five-shot deficit to the overnight leader, Gwladys Nocera of France, via a bogey-free round of 62 that forced a playoff. Hull birdied the first sudden-death hole to secure the victory.

Hull has battled a wrist injury for her entire career and learned earlier this season that it's a situation that can't be repaired.

"I saw a guy who works with a lot of NFL players and he told me my wrist is fractured," Hull explained. "It's more like a chip is out of the bone and it's been there a while. He told me it's always going to be there, but that I will be able to play with it."

Hull must now obey a strict routine to protect her wrist.

"I sleep with a brace on my wrist and do everything else with it strapped up," Hull said. "That way I can take it off when I play golf."

Hull is blessed with the ability to leave her profession at the golf course and practice range, spending most of her time away from the course doing things that most other women enjoy.

"Honestly, I don't even think about golf, not even when I'm playing in competition," Hull claimed. "Sometimes I will be thinking about the dress I'm going to wear out next weekend or something to do with my friends and stuff.

"It's cool because I got to the point a few years ago where all I did was golf and all I thought about was golf, golf, golf, and it made me kind of ill -- it was really weird. After that, I kind of loosened up and it's helped me."

While only 21 years old, Hull has already competed in three Solheim Cups representing Team Europe (2013, 2015 and 2017), and feels the best is yet to come.

"I'm happy with the way my game is progressing," Hull said. "I will just keep taking it one step at a time. I want to be playing and enjoying competitive golf for as long as possible. I know I have many more successes ahead of me."

Updated November 14, 2017