ADHD revelations bring life into focus for former CME champ Charley Hull

NAPLES, Fla. – There are times when Georgia Hall goes out to breakfast with her best mate Charley Hull and finds herself dining alone midway through her meal. Hull isn’t one to stay in one place for very long. When she’s done eating, she leaves.

“That’s just Charley,” said a smiling Hall, who isn’t bothered one bit.

Hull can’t remember the last time she watched a movie in the theater.

“I’d have to go to about 10 toilet breaks,” she said, “and just keep coming in and out. It’s just crazy.”

Hull, 27, told the BBC back in July that she’d been unofficially diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The realization came earlier this year after playing a casual round of golf with a doctor. Hull has been learning more and more about the disorder ever since.

At the LET’s Aramco event in London this summer, Hull slept for 2½ hours over the course of four days. She eventually crashed, sleeping for 16 hours straight.

“I had Georgia ringing my phone,” she said, “checking if I was OK.”

Charley Hull of England looks on during the second round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 17, 2023 in Naples, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Now the eighth-ranked player in the world, Hull views golf as her therapy but can’t be away from home for too long because she’s a self-described “overthinker.” It’s the downtime at tournaments that she finds most difficult. Hull tries to fill the time as much she can at the gym or with Hall, her friend of 17 years. She enjoys coloring books and cold showers.

Things began to take a turn for the worse last spring after she missed the cut at the Chevron Championship and went to a friend’s house in Los Angeles. She was averaging about an hour of sleep per night at that point and felt completely drained as her mind raced relentlessly.

In late April, Hull abruptly pulled out of the Hanwha Lifeplus International Crown and went home, leaving Team England scrambling to fly in a replacement. Hull eventually decided to open up about her diagnosis after receiving criticism for how she’d handled the Crown.

When Hull won the CME Group Tour Championship seven years ago, she knew nothing about anxiety.

“I used to laugh at people who had it because I didn’t understand it,” she said.

It wasn’t until 2018 that something in her personal life, which she doesn’t want to talk about, triggered a change.

She’s been finding ways to cope ever since.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re a prisoner in your own head,” said Hull, who describes herself as moving at one speed: 100 mph. Her coping strategy is to leave the house at 7 a.m. and not come back until 11 p.m.

“I can’t sit down,” she said.

Anyone who has watched Hull compete can’t help but notice her speed, particularly the way her blonde ponytail whips about as she lashes after a golf ball. Everything Hull does feels like it’s on a fast-forward setting, from the way she walks to how she talks.

Hull isn’t one to dwell on a poor shot or an unlucky bounce. Her mind won’t allow it.

Charley Hull of England celebrates with Georgia Hall in the 18th green after winning The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America at Old American Golf Club on October 02, 2022 in The Colony, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

“She’s just so exciting to watch,” said Hall. “She plays really carefree, and it’s just great to see. A lot of players wish that they could play as free as her.”

Not surprisingly, slow play is Hull’s enemy. She tries to combat boredom by soaking in the views and drinks plenty of water to keep her brain sharp.

“I drink a lot of water, and I’ve never understood why I drink a lot of water,” said Hull. “I found out it’s actually a big thing with ADHD.”

Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, co-founders of Vision54, have noticed that many young people they work with these days struggle to stay focused during a lesson.

They’ve found attention training to be a helpful practice for many of their students, asking them to, for example, make a swing and feel the pressure of their grip. Can they get to 15 seconds of following their own breath? Can they keep their eyes softly focused on a target for 10 seconds? It’s like training a muscle.

When working with someone with ADHD, Nilsson and Marriott might change activities at a faster rate or ask a student to teach them what they’re working on to create a more lasting impression.

“As little talking as possible,” said Marriott, “and more doing.”

It’s estimated that, as of 2020, more than 366 million adults worldwide have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Hull’s ability to take certain medications for ADHD is restricted by LPGA anti-doping policies, though she worries that too people many have become reliant on pills.

“I feel like doctors just handing out tablets willy nilly is disgusting,” said Hull, “because it can actually make the person worse.”

A two-time winner on the LPGA, Hull has finished runner-up four times this season and entered the weekend inside the top 20 at the season-ending CME. Perhaps her most memorable on-course moment from the season came at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach, when she took an aggressive line under a tree with a 3-wood trying to reach the iconic 18th green in two to put pressure on leader Allisen Corpuz.

“You know the saying, shy kids don’t get sweets?” Hull asked her caddie shortly before taking a mighty big swing.

Hull works fast and aggressively in all parts of life, which is what makes her so much fun to watch. When she won her second LPGA title in Texas last year, she celebrated by buying herself not one but two Rolex watches.

And while Hull isn’t shy about sharing the details of her daily struggles, she isn’t looking for sympathy or offering any excuses.

“I’ve learned that with life you’ve just got to ride it out, because you have good days and bad days,” she said while signing autographs in Naples.

“I feel like people are way too soft these days. You can’t say certain things and this and that. And a lot of people do blame it on mental health. But at the end of the day, go back 50 years ago … times were a lot harder, and people just got on with it.

“People just need to get on with it these days.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek