But the native of Queensland, Australia and three-time All-American at Pepperdine University fired a final-round 69 to edge Ju Kim of Seoul, Korea in a two-hole sudden-death playoff to win the $70,000 Aurora Health Care Futures Charity Golf Classic. The duo tied at 210 (-6) for 54 holes in the event's third consecutive staging at Ironwood Golf Course, where Kim posted three straight rounds of two-under-par 70 on the 6,114-yard, par-72 course.
'It's a dream start, really,' said Hull, 21, who recorded rounds of 71-70-69 for the week. 'I finished my rounds strong for the last two days and put that under my belt. I knew it was going to come down to the last couple of holes.'
Kim, who built a three-shot lead with six holes to play in Sunday's final round, made her only mistakes in a crucial span of holes late in her round. She bogeyed No. 13 when her chip rolled two feet past the hole and she failed to get up and down for par. That trimmed her lead to one shot. At the 14th, a short approach shot resulted in a wedge that rolled 15 feet past the cup. Again, Kim couldn't convert for par, which allowed Hull to gain a share of the lead.
'Today my shots were really great, but I missed a lot of putts,' said Kim, who moved to the top of the Futures Tour Money List with her runner-up finish and earnings of $24,002 after eight events.
Kim's round included five birdies and three bogeys. After the two back-to-back bogeys on holes 13 and 14, she regained the lead on the 15th hole with a seven-foot birdie putt. But Kim bogeyed again after three-putting at the 16th to drop back into a tie with Hull. As if the drama weren't building enough, Kim struck her approach to 18 feet on the 17th hole, while Hull's shot landed 15 feet from the hole.
'I thought that whoever won that hole would win the tournament, but we both birdied,' said Hull. 'Ju showed me the line and I told myself to put a good roll on it. When it went in, I thought, 'Here we go.''
And indeed, they did. Kim's putt on the 18th green from 32 feet burned the left edge of the cup and she tapped in for par. Once again from nearly the same downhill line as Kim's, Hull went for her 30 footer and rolled three feet past. She made her come-back putt for par to force the playoff.
But instead of appearing like a frightened rookie or a first-week pro, Hull, who carried her own golf bag all week, returned to the 18th tee for the first sudden-death hole. She seemed undeterred by the pressure, even 'stoked' by her first chance at a professional title. By the end of the day, the 5-foot-10 player, known in the collegiate ranks for her ball striking ability, proved she had some other key ingredients.
'People automatically see a powerful player and a good ball striker, but Katherine's putting has been what she could always count on in college golf and it will transcend into her professional career,' said Pepperdine coach Laurie Gibbs. 'She has a lot of confidence and she's a great competitor.'
The fact that she had won eight college tournaments and set two NCAA scoring records earlier this year for lowest 18-hole score (nine-under-par 63) and lowest 54-hole score (16-under 200) proved that the Australian had done her homework before she turned pro. She was steady and unrattled and eager to start the playoff against Kim.
But Kim showed she was giving nothing up to the rookie. She drove into a left fairway bunker at No. 18 in the first playoff hole, then hit a 160-yard, 6-iron approach to 70 feet to the front of the green. Kim's par save from eight feet kept her in the match. Hull, whose 9-iron approach from 127 yards, stopped 20 feet short of the cup. She just missed birdie to the right and tapped in for par to force a second playoff hole.
Hull and Kim moved to the adjacent 10th tee and hit tee shots no more than five feet apart. Hull's 9-iron approach landed nine feet below the hole while Kim struck a 9-iron to 12 feet.
'I knew it was going in when I stood over that putt,' said Hull, whose birdie clinched the win. 'Ju and I were up and down all day and she played awesome. But anything can happen in this game.'
Even with young pros who have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Hull's first payday moved her to No. 17 on the Futures Tour Money List. She plans to play the next three Futures tournaments, the U.S. Women's Open in early July, then will finish out the season on the Futures Tour for a chance to earn one of the five exempt LPGA Tour cards awarded to the top five money winners at the season's end.