Many of the world’s most talented amateur golfers will assemble at neighbouring venues on England’s Golf Coast this week to contest The Amateur and Women’s Amateur championships.
In total, 120 players will gather at Royal Birkdale, a ten-time host of The Open, for The Amateur Championship, with another course in north-west England, West Lancashire, hosting almost 100 players for The Women’s Amateur Championship.
Both championships will be played as closed door events due to the COVID-19 pandemic with health and safety protocols in place to ensure a safe environment for players and officials.
Emily Toy returns to defend her Women’s Amateur title after the former R&A Scholar edged out Amelia Garvey at Royal County Down last year. As Toy has enjoyed, there are significant rewards for the champion with exemptions into the AIG Women’s Open and, traditionally, the US Women’s Open, The Evian Championship and Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship.
Toy, 22, said: “I’m really looking forward to playing at West Lancashire to defend the Women’s Amateur Championship title. It is a great championship, well run and on a world class track.
”Last year, I gained lots of great opportunities, including teeing it up in two major championships. I’ve got the US Open to come in December and then Augusta next year. It’s amazing to have these opportunities.”
Two of the world’s top ten players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) will start in the field at The Women’s Amateur Championship – Italian duo Alessia Nobilio (3) and Benedetta Moresco (9).
The highest-ranked Englishwoman is Lily May Humphreys at 13, who won the 2017 R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship and was also a Curtis Cup team member for Great Britain and Ireland in 2018.
In-form Emily Price defeated Humphreys to win the English Women’s Amateur Championship earlier this month, while West Lancashire’s Hollie Muse will hope to use local knowledge and build on her run to the semi-finals in 2018.
Former Curtis Cup players Annabell Fuller, who won the English Women’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship last week, Paula Grant and Shannon McWilliam also compete, along with 2018 R&A Girls’ Under-16 Open champion Hannah Darling.
With an exemption into The Open at Royal St George’s next summer and, by tradition, an invitation to play in next year’s Masters Tournament and an exemption to the US Open there is much at stake in the 125thstaging of The Amateur Championship.
While Irishman James Sugrue is unable to defend his title due to travel restrictions, players from the likes of Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and the home nations will assemble at the famous Southport links. Frenchman David Ravetto, who won last week’s Brabazon Trophy, is one to watch.
Teenager Benjamin Schmidt from England is the top-ranked player in the field and last year’s Brabazon Trophy winner will look to fend off a strong challenge from his countrymen, including Benjamin Jones, Conor Gough and Thomas Plumb.
Plumb, a Great Britain and Ireland team-mate of Gough at the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool in 2019, shared top spot in stroke play qualifying at Portmarnock last year and hopes to continue his love for the event.
The 21-year-old, who went on to reach the last-32 in Ireland, said, “The course suited me in the wind last year and I’m looking to do even better at Royal Birkdale.
“I played the Boys Amateur there in 2015 and it is such a good course, I’m really excited to go back. Since lockdown, I’ve struggled a little with my game but I feel like the quality is getting better and hopefully I can peak this week.”
This week offers the opportunity for the world’s leading amateur players to challenge for two prestigious titles following interrupted seasons due to the global pandemic.
Euan Mordaunt, Director – Amateur Championships at The R&A, said, “We have worked closely with our medical advisors, health and safety consultants and the local authority to ensure we can play the championships safely this week and it will be a real boost for the world’s leading amateur golfers, who have found playing opportunities limited by the pandemic.
“We are now looking forward to an exciting week of elite amateur golf when two players will emerge to join an illustrious list of past champions and earn exemptions into major championships, including The Open and AIG Women’s Open.”