LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Georgia Hall’s father walked behind his daughter with her golf bag over his shoulder and a lump in his throat.
A plasterer by trade, he knows what it’s like now to walk through his dream.
Actually, his daughter’s dream, too, the one they shared from practically the moment he first stuck a club in her hands in Bournemouth in the south of England.
Per his daughter’s orders at week’s start, Wayne Hall didn’t show any of the emotions he was feeling while caddying for her Sunday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He even choked back the joy in his throat as he watched his daughter wave to all those cheering Brits along the 18th fairway.
He waited until the last putt fell and the Ricoh Women’s British Open was officially won to allow a tear to fall. They came in a waterfall in the end, when he hugged Sam, his wife and Georgia’s mother.
“We’ve been dreaming this since she was 7 years old, practicing and pretending to knock in putts to win the British Open,” Wayne said after. “And it’s actually happened.”
At journey’s conclusion, Wayne allowed himself another emotion. He laughed. Per his daughter’s other orders, he wore the same pair of dirty socks all four rounds toting her bag. He would finally get to wash them.
“They stink,” Wayne said.
The father-and-daughter plan, from dirty socks, to stifled emotion and smart plays, was almost flawless.
Hall, 22, was brilliant closing with a 5-under-par 67 to beat Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum by two shots in a head-to-head duel that the Brits won’t soon forget.
While this was primarily an English story, it resonated beyond the country’s borders. It’s a tale fathers and daughters everywhere could appreciate, a story of hard work turning humble, modest beginnings into a rich ending.
Growing up, Hall couldn’t compete in all the events she was qualified to play. Plastering didn’t make Wayne rich, nor did his wife’s job as a hairdresser. When Georgia was 13 and won the British Ladies Amateur, she had to turn down the invite she got to the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The family couldn’t afford the flight to California.
“I missed probably three majors as an amateur that I qualified for, and I didn’t get to go,” Georgia said.
Even some of the big invites she accepted came at price that hurt.
“When she had to travel for Scotland and even Europe, I had to sell stuff to get there,” Wayne said.
A 2-handicap himself, Wayne remembers selling his golf clubs to fund one trip.
“Things like that are a bit disheartening,” Wayne said. “We’ve just done what we can.”
Georgia said there were frustrations in that, but motivation to make the most of the opportunities she did get.
“I always tell myself that if my golf's good enough, it can take me anywhere, regardless of how much money I have,” she said. “And then I just keep going.”
Wayne was Georgia’s coach growing up. He named her after the home of a golf memory. He named her after watching fellow Englishman Nick Faldo beat Greg Norman to win the Masters in the state of Georgia in ’96, about a week before his daughter was born.
Wayne was his daughter’s constant companion on the golf course growing up. He was there helping her imagine the Women’s British Open title was hanging in the balance as she practiced putts as a little girl.
“It all paid off,” he said. “Unbelievable.”
Family memories choked up Georgia when it was all over, too. She cried at the trophy presentation thinking of her grandfather, Clive Evans, who is hospitalized and terminally ill.
“I told myself at the start of the week that I was going to do my best, and I was going to do it for him,” Georgia said later. “I believe he would be very proud.”
All of England was proud. Hall is just the fourth Englishwoman to win a major championship, just the second to win the Women’s British Open since it became a major. Karen Stupples won the first at Sunningdale 14 years ago. Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas are the other Englishwomen to win majors.
Hall didn’t look like an LPGA rookie trying to make her first tour victory a major championship. She looked like she had closed out a dozen of them before.
A shot behind at day’s start, Hall fell two back watching Phatlum make three birdies in a row on the front nine. Hall never flinched. She was a rock chasing on the back nine, firing at flags in an unrelenting pursuit. She rolled in a 15-foot birdie at the 13th to tie, birdied the 16th to take a one-shot lead and then sealed her victory with a par at the the 17th. That’s where Phatlum made a costly double bogey.
That two-shot swing allowed Hall to soak in the cheers in her walk up the 18th fairway. She knew when she ran her approach onto the green that it was over. Her three putt at the last didn’t matter.
“I always joked to myself, because I hadn’t won a tournament since I turned pro, that the first one would be a major,” she said. “I always used to say that.
“I've actually done it now.”
England and beyond cheered her as she walked through that dream.