Magenta Shores CC, March 29-31, 2024

HAYES: Consumate Hall Still Has It All

It was a hot day in Dubbo, really good beer-drinking weather.

And when Lydia Hall cut through the well-wishers as she strode victorious off the 18th green, it didn’t take long for her to reach for a celebratory XXXX.

For some in the field, winning this leg of the Women’s New South Wales Open regional qualifying series might have been a career golfing highlight.

But as her favourite Aussie brew sated her parched throat, it didn’t escape Hall’s attention that relief was prevalent at least as much as the associated pride in a commanding six-shot victory at Dubbo Golf Club.

The popular Welsh veteran, now 36, has been a fixture on the Ladies European Tour since 2007, including her high point, winning the Ladies British Masters in 2012.

But when her 2023 campaign soured dramatically, she admitted this week that she’d been contemplating her future in the sport she’s loved all of her 36 years.

Hall and her Australian partner decided to set up base at their family’s home near Canberra for the summer and set about the assessment process.

One magnificent family Christmas, a lot of cuddles with a new niece and a quick “clubs down” holiday – her first in 17 years – to Bali and the answer today became abundantly clear.

Hall still has it.

Given her LET status already had her in the NSW Open field, winning at Dubbo meant entirely different things to Hall than it might have to others.

Among them is the knowledge she can still take the game up to her younger rivals.

Another is that she had the mental composure to stay focused today, even when the chasing pack faltered and left her all alone.

But in a poignant quirk for someone who has done so much in golf, she gladly put her hand out for the winner’s share of the $50,000 purse – a thought that hit home as she pondered her future just three months ago.

“Giving it up seems far away now, as of probably the last five weeks, but as of November I was really close to giving it away,” Hall said.

“In the women’s game, it’s so hard to keep going financially.

“If you’re not making cuts and not playing well, it obviously becomes a lot harder.

“So from that point of view, I’m 36, haven’t got a home anywhere yet so all of those thoughts came into my mind at the end of the season.

“It’s not just your professional life, but your personal life as well.

“You can’t help but think about it. Can I continue going? There are all these young girls coming out who are taller, stronger and hitting it further.

“But something inside of me knew just to keep going, keep pushing, there’s better things around the corner and I’m hoping that this today, for this year, that this is just the start of it.”

Hall continued about the plight of many in the women’s game.

“Even when I won (on LET) I wasn’t financially stable. And winning on the (secondary) Access Tour gave me virtually nothing.

“On the women’s tour, obviously there’s the five majors where you can make decent money if you play well, but you have to get there first.

“The average LET purse is around 300,000 Euros for the majority of the season. So when you’re up close to 80,000 Euros expenses a year, you’ve got to be making at least double that to be getting ahead at all.

“So it’s not an easy gig, you have to get the results or it becomes a huge pressure situation on your life.

“Then obviously the game goes backwards, you’re not making money and if you’re not careful it spirals down and out of control quickly.

“So to come out the other side, I’m really happy to get this win.”

It’s stark to hear someone who is so well-known in global women’s golf speak of the challenges confronting her peers collectively.

It’s also why she’s so grateful to Golf New South Wales – and the Federal Golf Club in Canberra – for offering her a chance to stay at the top of her formidable game.

“Yeah, it’s amazing the opportunities that have been created here. I had the choice to be (playing) in Tampa Bay right now, but I chose to be here and I’m so glad I did.

“I really want to thank everyone at Federal for giving myself and Amy (Walsh) the chance to practise. That course is unreal, I’ve never seen fairways like it and they’ve been kind enough to let us on.

“And all these things make a massive difference.”

Hall, whose wins include the TPS Victoria event against the men in 2022, knows that being in Australia is great for her game.

After putting down her XXXX to accept her trophy in the Dubbo clubhouse, she made a great speech, partly urging ongoing support for these brilliant regional events in the hope they can make a legitimate pathway for emerging Aussie golfers.

She vowed she’d be back next year to defend her title, won so impressively today with just one bogey as all around those faltered in the heat.

“I’ve had better rounds, but today I knew it would be a battle against myself as well as in the tournament,” she said.

“It was more a battle against myself out there today, as it turned out (with no substantive challenge from the pack).

“And after everything, it was a chance to see how I’m performing in these situations mentally, more than against the field.

“I take it lot from it in that sense and things are feeling much better.”

There has been a cavalcade of great stories in this regional qualifying series, but for someone who has seen it all in world golf, this one speaks volumes.

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