The tears were a surprise. Those who’ve kept up with Georgia Hall since she burst onto the international golf scene at the 2017 Solheim Cup – she qualified for Team Europe as the leading money winner and Player of the Year on the Ladies European Tour – are familiar with the steely gaze and unnatural calm, facial expressions that never seem to change no matter the circumstances.
She’s not placid. Hall signs autographs with the same focus you’d expect from someone closing on a house. And she studies the buffet line in player dining with the same intensity she has when standing over a 6-foot putt. There is a no-nonsense Englishness about her, the kind of reserved fire that built an empire and saved a continent. In another age, she would have inspired Kipling.
So, when Hall picked up her second LPGA Tour win a week ago at the Cambia Portland Classic in a playoff against Ashleigh Buhai, the cracking voice and wells that spilled over from her eyes stunned those who watched.
“I think that I won the (AIG Women’s Open) and I just wanted to win again really badly, especially in America,” Hall said after the victory in Oregon. “After a couple of years, obviously I've never won in America; I find it easier, maybe, to win in Europe or Great Britain. I always knew it would maybe be harder, so it's a relief that I've won in America and I can bring that confidence to the next event.
“But also, I was quite nervous the last six or seven holes, so it was a buildup of emotions. And then bogeying the last and getting in a playoff, it was a buildup and then just really happy tears at the end.”
“She’s proved she can now win a major, and I think for her to win in Portland gives her a huge confidence boost and kind of gives her the little push that I think she needs. ... I don’t think she quite gives herself the credit she deserves.”
The truth is, the buildup was quite a bit longer than six or seven holes. Hall has always looked like she’s chasing a tiger that only she can see. A lot of that comes from her background. The daughter of a plasterer, hailing from a country and competing in a game where social standing is even more important than your bank balance, Hall stiffened her spine when others in her amateur days, quite literally, looked down their noses as her. Her father, Wayne, sold his own golf clubs at one point to pay one more entry fee for a daughter who taught herself the game and displayed enough talent to win her national junior championship, the British Girls’ Under-13 Championship, and two gold medals at the 2012 Youth Olympics.
Perhaps nothing typifies what drives Georgia Hall more than the story of the 2013 Women’s Amateur Championship at a place called Machynys Peninsula Golf and Country Club in Wales. Given her family’s means, Hall stayed in a dank, small room above a bar about a 30-minute hike from the golf course. It was like sleeping under the bleachers during a basketball game. Then, in the mornings, she and her caddie walked single file through high grass alongside a narrow road to the course. Not one fellow competitor stopped to give her a ride.
Now, her face adorns the R&A’s web page for the Women’s Amateur.
The financial hardships waned by the time Hall joined the LPGA Tour in 2018. But the “I’ll show you” attitude remains evident every time she tees it up. The fact that her father caddied for Hall when she won the 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes should have put a period on the story. Happy endings don’t get much more poetic, especially with fans from industrial Manchester and coal-mining Blackpool lining the fairways and shouting, “Come on, Georgia!” after every shot. But old habits die hard and Hall spent the 26 months after her major win fighting to get the next one. Even the stardom she attained at the 2019 Solheim Cup, where she went 4-0-0, didn’t scratch the itch.
“I mean, obviously it was amazing winning my first major, let alone my first event,” Hall said. “Then, yeah, I had a kind of 50/50 year last year where my first half wasn't very good, and my second half was good. So, I’m just taking one tournament at a time and not really focusing too much on the future. But my goal this year was to win in America, and I'm really glad I've done that.”
That’s underselling her talent and accomplishments, another typical English trait that adds to her charm. Suzann Pettersen, never one to toss casual accolades, went out of her way to do so for Hall, however. When answering a question about something completely different, Pettersen said, “I would like just to comment on Georgia. I think it's hard to win at this level any week. She's proved she can now win a major, and I think for her to win in Portland gives her a huge confidence boost and kind of gives her the little push that I think she needs. I was really impressed when I saw her play in 2017 and was not surprised seeing her win the Women's Open in 2018.
“I don't think she quite gives herself the credit she deserves. But she's a great player.”