Lily May Humphreys makes big changes under watchful eye of coach Richard Smith
By Chris Johnston
Big-hitting teen sensation Lily May Humphreys has her sights set on becoming the Dustin Johnson of women’s golf. And after a breathtaking 2016 season, few would bet against her.
It took brave PGA pro Richard Smith to completely rebuild the youngster’s swing - and keep Humphreys on her stellar rise to the top.
The 14-year-old, pictured, from Channels in Essex, has taken the girls’ amateur game by the scruff of the neck this year, winning no fewer than three times and taking third spot in the European Young Masters in Switzerland.
At the recent WPGA International Challenge at Stoke-by-Nayland, she fired in two round of 75 and 71 to qualify for the final day - and then produced a 72 to finish tied 25th.
“It was a great event,” she said. “But I could have finished a lot higher. I had double bogeys on the 18th twice in a row. I really enjoyed being out with the professionals.”
Humphreys’ hot streak began in April when she won the Fairhaven Girls Trophy by a staggering eight shots. She followed that with an impressive European Young Masters, then bagged two more wins – the English Girls U16 Amateur by six strokes and the North of England U16 title, again by six shots.
It all adds up to an impressive season for the ambitious teenager who excelled at cricket, tennis and netball before deciding golf was her passion.
Her interest was ignited by a trip to local Topgolf centre in Chigwell, when she was nine-years-old with her single figure handicap brother Jack.
She tried her hand at some of the fun golf set up for kids – but Smith quickly noticed that Lily had something special.
Smith took her aside for more serious coaching and her handicap was soon tumbling.
By the age of 11 she was playing off 12, and the numbers kept falling.
Smith “What separated Lily was her focus and her desire to learn. For someone her age she could concentrate and stay focused a long time and that makes teaching easy. She is very competitive. That was clear from a young age. She wants to learn and do well. She was a joy to work with.”
But late last year it was clear that if Humphreys wanted to carry on her meteoric rise, she would have to make some fundamental changes to her swing.
It was a worrying time for both Lily and her family – with understandable fears lurking about the downside of swing surgery. But a poor performance in a major event convinced everyone a swing re-build was the only way forward.
Smith explained: “Lily had an out-to-in swing and was hitting everything with a draw. On some holes she was having to aim over out-of-bounds to allow for the draw back into the fairway.
“We needed to change the path of her swing, quieten her hands. I spoke to her national coach, Roly Hitchcock at Stoke-by-Nayland, and we moved ahead.”
The transition required four months of non-stop work – but with Smith’s guidance and Humphreys’ determination the end result is a more powerful solid swing.
Smith, 28, said: “Lily worked so hard. She never questions anything. She listens and puts things into action.”
Now she has a whole range of shots she can play depending on conditions.
Humphreys has one goal in mind – to be a tour pro and to emulate heroes like Charley Hull and major winner Johnson, inset.
She said: “I love the way Johnson plays. He has the power game, but he also has a lot of touch and a great short game.
“He goes for things on the course which is what makes him so great to watch.”