ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Many Englishwomen have passed, quite successfully, through Sally Amateur lore. Ellen Hume is just the latest, though with a game that’s no less head-turning than any of those before her.
On Thursday, Hume was surprised to learn that LPGA winner Charley Hull, with whom she shares a short-game coach back home near London, had fared quite well at Oceanside Country Club. A decade has passed since Hull logged top-3 finishes in back-to-back years.
Halfway through this year’s Sally, Hume is in the same neighborhood – solo third after rounds of 71-72 and four shots off 15-year-old Bailey Shoemaker’s lead at 5 under.
“I thought I hit the ball really well,” Hume said of her game. “I made some early birdies on the front nine so that kind of relaxed me and got me into a nice groove. Started hitting it pretty close.”
Rather than return to her childhood home near London (COVID quarantines would have complicated travel), Hume decided to spend her holiday in North Florida. She and good friend Mawgan Vater, who plays for Jacksonville University, have passed the time on many Jacksonville-area courses, TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley course among them. Hume competed at the Dixie Women’s Amateur in South Florida to end 2020 and finished runner-up.
In the past, the Sally has been an important stop for players looking for a spot on a Curtis Cup roster. That’s not so much the case anymore, but it may still work in Hume’s favor.
Hume, No. 194 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, did not make the GB&I’s 17-woman Curtis Cup practice squad, announced in December. Of course, that doesn’t mean she can’t play her way into the mix over the next few months. The matches will be played Aug. 26-28 in Wales.
“It’s something that I was striving for. It was a bit unfortunate that I didn’t make the team, but there’s always 2023,” Hume said “…I thought my game was in a good place for 2021 but I’ll be ready for the next one.”
Hume had never competed in the U.S. before arriving at Charleston Southern to play college golf in 2018. Her family took an annual spring trip to Hilton Head and, among other things, made it a tradition to take in the PGA Tour’s Heritage Classic at Harbour Town. It’s one reason she found her way to Charleston.
These days, Hume’s interest has moved back a week on the PGA Tour calendar. She just recently started applying for Masters tickets through the lottery system, and also has applied for Augusta National Women’s Amateur tickets.
The latter issue may take care of itself. Hume very well could find herself in that field.
“That’s the other goal,” she said. “That’s a tournament that every girl now wants to be a part of.”
That fits Hume’s forward-thinking nature when it comes to golf, which is also how she ended up at Ole Miss. After two years at Charleston Southern, Hume felt she needed more of a challenge.
“I wanted to compete with people that are the best in the world every day, day in day out. I wanted to be able to play in competition that was world-class,” she said of her decision to enter the transfer portal.
Ole Miss head coach Kory Henkes started her coaching career at Charleston Southern, and has always kept an eye on her old program. She knew what she was getting with Hume, who turned out to be a natural fit at Ole Miss. Hume loved the coaches and facilities.
Hume describes herself as a laid-back and casual person, a positive teammate among close-knit squad. Henkes talks of Hume’s quick wit and sense of humor. Where he game is concerned, small details have made a big difference.
“She’s improved so much in such a quick amount of time just from having some course management and some putting,” Henkes said. “Just some little things, really. She’s a great ball striker.”
Hume’s game really is most remarkable off the tee. She makes a powerful move and averages upwards of 270 yards off the tee. That’s 10 yards farther, she says, than she was hitting it a year ago.
At Ole Miss, Henkes and assistant coach Zack Byrd have worked to tighten things up around the greens. This fall, they realized Hume always missed putts on the low side. In a practice round for the East Lake Cup, a match-play event televised on Golf Channel, Byrd gave Hume a high-side putting drill. Henkes decided to walk with her in the stroke-play qualifying round and assist in reading putts.
“We got done with the day and she’s like, that’s the smartest round of golf I’ve ever played in my life,” Henkes said. “Just thinking her way around a little more.”
The TV time Hume garnered that week brought both recognition and confidence.
After sharing East Lake medalist honors with teammate Kennedy Swann, Hume clawed back from 3 down at the turn to win her semifinal match over Texas’ Kaitlyn Papp. The next day, she defeated South Carolina’s Pimnipa Panthong by a 7-and-6 margin.
And that’s exactly the kind of thing that should prompt Curtis Cup selectors to take another look.