PARKER, Colo. – Charley Hull doesn’t see the point in being intimidated.
She doesn’t mean to be irreverent, but she doesn’t see why hitting her first tee shot in her first Solheim Cup should rattle her when the 13th edition of the biennial matches begins Friday at Colorado Golf Club.
“The first tee shot, thinking about it, is really no different to hitting a tee shot at my home golf club,” Hull said.
When those words came out of Hull’s mouth in a news conference Thursday, European Solheim Cup veteran Suzann Pettersen burst out laughing.
Forgive Miss Hull. She’s just 17, but she embodies what’s so different about this Solheim Cup. Outside that inaugural event in 1990, this Solheim Cup feels younger, newer and fresher than any other.
Pettersen laughed again when Hull explained how she wasn’t rattled in the least being paired at the European Masters last month with Karrie Webb and Laura Davies, two of the toughest legends of the game.
“I don’t see any point in being really intimidated,” Hull said. “But I don’t know, I’m still young.”
Pettersen reveled in Hull’s youthful bravado and naivete.
“We were probably all like this back in the day,” Pettersen said. “We didn’t know better. I think it’s fantastic. It’s so genuine, and I don’t blame her. Why should you go out and be intimidated on the golf course? Usually, that’s why all these young players play so well. They don’t know better.”
Hull is the youngest competitor in the history of the Solheim Cup. At 18, Lexi Thompson is the youngest American to play in a Solheim Cup.
Overall, this is the youngest U.S. team ever at an average age of 26.3 years old. How young is that? The 2000 team U.S. captain Meg Mallon played on had an average age of 35.6.
The European team is almost as young this year, with an average age of 27.6 years old.
This year’s competition marks a changing of the guard, a fact accentuated by this being the first Solheim Cup staged without England’s Laura Davies or American Juli Inkster playing.
Nearly half of this Solheim Cup’s rosters are playing the event for the first time. Ten of the 24 players are Solheim Cup rookies, most since ’02.
“You’re seeing the present and the future of the Solheim Cup,” Mallon said. “It’s kind of cool having these young players who are going to be a part of this event for a very long time.
“I’m excited to see how they are going to respond to this. They’re so fired up right now, and I’m not quite sure they know what they’re getting into.”
When making Hull one of her captain’s picks, Europe’s Liselotte Neumann said Hull possessed a certain quality she coveted in trying to win a Solheim Cup for the first time on American soil.
“I tried to pick some young players, some sort of fearless players, some long hitters,” Neumann said.
Hull fits the bill in all of those categories. She wasn’t a bit intimidated turning pro this season. She finished second in her first five starts on the LET this year. She helped Great Britain & Ireland defeat the Americans in the Curtis Cup last year. She played for Neumann in the Junior Solheim Cup.
When it comes to young and fearless, the Americans have the same dynamic going.
Thompson won an LPGA event when she was 16.
“Lexi has that element of mental toughness that you need to play in a Solheim Cup,” said Cristie Kerr, playing her seventh Solheim Cup. “She’s got it.”
American Jessica Korda is just 20. She won the Women’s Australian Open for her first LPGA title last year.
On the U.S. side, there’s a veteran nucleus with Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Brittany Lang and Michelle Wie. Thompson, Korda, Lizette Salas and Gerina Piller are the American Solheim Cup rookies.
On the European side, there is veteran leadership in Catriona Matthew and Pettersen. There are six Solheim Cup rookies on that side: Hull, Beatriz Recari, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Giulia Sergas, Caroline Masson and Carlota Ciganda.
“It’s a new generation,” Pettersen said. “It’s just fun to see the different team coming up. I think this is the future for our European golf.”
The women’s game has never felt younger, and this Solheim Cup reflects that.