By Tony Jimenez
LONDON (Reuters) - Charley Hull has mixed feelings about her second-place finish at the first women's major championship of 2016, describing it as a "missed opportunity" but also viewing her performance as a sizeable confidence boost.
The golden girl of British golf burst on to the stage in 2013 when, as the youngest player in the history of the Solheim Cup, the then 17-year-old won two of her three matches to inspire Europe to their first victory on U.S. soil.
Hull's game has continued to progress since then and she came close to landing her first major earlier this month, ending in a share of second place, one stroke behind New Zealander Lydia Ko, in the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills, California.
"I look back and think it was a missed opportunity but I took a lot of confidence from it as well," the 20-year-old Englishwoman told Reuters in an interview held at Woburn, venue of the $3 million Ricoh Women's British Open from July 28-31.
"It was a great feeling knowing I can perform that well under pressure, knowing I had to make birdies on the back nine and that's what I did, birdying the last hole knowing I needed one to maybe get in a playoff and that's what I did."
Hull's display at Mission Hills came as no surprise, especially as her form has been good this season.
"I've had three top-10s in my first six tournaments this year," said the world number 25. "I feel confident in my game.
"I put in a lot of hard work over Christmas, I'm doing a lot of gym work and trying to eat healthy.
"I'm buzzing for my next events. Ever since I came home I've been practicing loads because I want to keep in form," added Hull.
"The Olympics and the majors are definitely in my sights. The majors have always been my favorite tournaments and I get a buzz from them."
Golf will return to the Games in Rio de Janeiro in August after a 112-year absence and Hull wants the event to attract a new generation of players to the game.
"It's definitely a big stepping stone," she said. "I just hope they continue it because I think it's great for the game.
"When I watch the Olympics I watch some sports I never normally watch so I'm hoping young kids will sit down in front of their TVs and watch the golf.
"Ever since I was young I've dreamed of winning majors so for me a major is the main thing but maybe kids of six or seven can now start dreaming of winning golf medals in the Olympics."
Hull was again a central figure at the Solheim Cup last year when tempers flared on the last day of the women's equivalent of the Ryder Cup.
Her Norwegian partner Suzann Pettersen refused to concede a 16-inch putt to Alison Lee and the American picked her ball up on the 17th green of their fourballs encounter.
That left the referee no option but to award the hole to Hull and Pettersen, leading to victory for the pair against Lee and Brittany Lincicome and accusations of a lack of sportsmanship by the home team.
The Englishwoman was clearly affected by the incident and was in tears on the course.
"I think it was all blown out of proportion," said Hull. "I'm really good friends with Alison, I've known her since I was 15 so that was why I was upset.
"Everyone (on tour) the week after, and a couple of weeks after, we were all talking about it and just laughing about it. We didn't think that it was actually that much of a big deal."
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)