Martin Dempster: Georgia Hall can restore golf’s rightful media focus

Georgia Hall, with her British Ladies Open trophy, is only the third home player to win that event. Picture: PA
Georgia Hall, with her British Ladies Open trophy, is only the third home player to win that event. Picture: PA
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Move over Johanna Konta and Heather Watson. Britain has a new women’s sporting superstar in Georgia Hall, and it really is time that golf gets its right and proper place back as a sport that should be trumpeted and celebrated a bit more rather than being treated as second best to the likes of tennis.

It might, of course, be down to me having become that grumpy old man, but it really does infuriate me when sports bulletins, both on television and radio, seem to constantly include references to the likes of Konte and Watson, even if they’ve just been defeated and, more often than not, that seems to 
be the case.

In contrast, golf, and I’m not only talking about the women’s game here, rarely gets a mention, which is quite astonishing, really, when Justin Rose, the Olympic champion, is sitting at world No 3 and you also have Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey inside the top 20 in the global rankings.

Taking over the mantle as British No 1 from player such as Catriona Matthew and Laura Davies, Charley Hull has also had to play second fiddle on occasions at times to players of similar standing in other sports, particularly those in the 
tennis world.

It was Hull that many experts felt could deliver the sort of boost golf needed to make people stand up and take a bit more notice about the potential world-beaters in the sport in Britain, yet Hall has beaten her compatriot to the punch and all credit to the 22-year-old for winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham on Sunday with a stunning performance.

She is only the fifth British player to land a women’s major, joining Karen Stupples (2004) and Catriona Matthew (2009) in claiming this particular event, as well as Laura Davies, with four such titles to her name, and Alison Nicholas in that exclusive club.

One suspects that women’s golf did not benefit as much as it might have from those four previous successes, but, especially at a time when there is so much focus on trying to get more women and girls into golf, both playing and in roles within the game, that should certainly be the case in this instance.

Straight away, we saw the impact of Hall’s success as she appeared on the BBC Breakfast couch early yesterday morning for a chat with Naga Munchetty and Dan Walker, both mad-keen golfers, instantly offering the game a profile that it has been lacking on terrestrial TV over the past few years.

That came after a group of excited youngsters excitedly shouted Hall’s name as they waited for her to come out of the media centre at Royal Lytham around 8pm on Sunday night. “I couldn’t believe so many young girls and boys were watching me, wanting a picture or an autograph,” admitted Hall. “Hopefully I can encourage a lot of young girls out there to take up the game. I want to be a good role model for young girls in Britain.”

Hall fits that particular bill in so many ways. She’s been a winner from an early age, her successes when cutting her competitive teeth including victories in the Girls’ Amateur and Ladies British Amateur Championships in successive years.

She watched her family make sacrifices to give her an opportunity to carve out a career in golf and, even then, she missed out on some opportunities to play in three majors due simply to the fact she couldn’t afford to get to where they were being played.

Frustrating though that was, it hasn’t done her any harm. Quite the opposite probably. Finishing joint third in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns last year was no flash in the pan. This young lady revels on big stages. She wasn’t fazed in the slightest as a Solheim Cup rookie in Des Moines last year. Could she be the taliswoman when Europe, with Matthew as captain, try to win that trophy back at Gleneagles next September? Yes indeed.

Hall is heading to the Perthshire venue this week and talk about a timely boost for the inaugural European Golf Team Championships. It had been hoped the innovative event – it involves men’s and women’s events as well as a mixed tournament – would appeal to youngsters in particular and golf’s newest major champion deserves to have some new supporters out there on the PGA Centenary Course from tomorrow onwards.

Take a bow, Georgia, and let’s hope your success is that catalyst for golf at least establishing an equal footing with tennis when it comes to media coverage.