ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (May 30, 2006) -- This will be the eighth time the championship has been played over the rugged links in Newcastle but it was the first there, in 1899, that is etched in the records. Then, May Hezlet, just one week past her 17th birthday, became and remains the youngest ever winner of the title. She went on to win a further two British Championships.
Nowadays, to emulate that win aged only 17 would be almost impossible and with the strength of the field competing at Royal County Down from 13-17 June it is likely that the winner will be a competitor with experience of competition at the highest international level.
Last year at Littlestone Louise Stahle of Sweden successfully defended her title but now, since she has turned professional, the way is open for a new name on the trophy.
Curtis Cup player Claire Coughlan was close to putting her name on the trophy at Littlestone but in the end was edged out by Louise, one of the longer hitters in the amateur circuit. This year Claire will be competing against one of the strongest ever fields with almost 180 players with handicaps as low as +4.5 entered.
Spanish youngster Carlota Ciganda, the 2004 European Ladies’ Champion has shown she can win at the highest level and is quite capable of adding the British to her collection of titles. However French player Jade Schaeffer, last year’s European winner in Madeira is only one of several players from 17 countries who must consider they can lift the trophy.
Dewi Schreefel, one of a strong squad from the Netherlands, had her greatest success to date with her win last week in the NCAA Women’s Division 1 Championship. The 20 year old student at Southern California University shot a final round of 69, three-under-par, to win by two strokes. Other top finishers in the U.S. and travelling to Ireland are Sandra Gal of Germany and Azahara Munoz of Spain
Kiran Matharu, 17, is one of the rising stars of English golf and confirmed that promise last week by winning the English Ladies’ Championship at West Lancs, beating Ganton’s Naomi Edwards 5 and 4 in the final. Both players will be competing at Royal County Down alongside Felicity Johnson, the 2005 English Ladies Champion.
Scotland will be hoping for a good performance from Martine Pow this year’s national title holder, Anne Laing and Fiona Lockhart, both former winners of the domestic title.
The last Irish winner of the Ladies Amateur was Lillian Behan in 1985, one of only four in the past 50 years, none of which were on native soil. In addition to Claire Coughlan, Alison Coffey and Maria Dunne, Tricia Mangan, their 2005 and 2006 Champion and Martina Gillen, this year’s beaten finalist, will be the players on whose shoulders rest the hopes of a nation.
Welsh supporters will be hoping for a title-winning performance from Stephanie Evans, the recent winner of their national title at Tenby.
Susan Simpson, Director of Championships for the LGU said, “We are delighted that after a break of over half a century we are returning to Royal County Down, truly one of Ireland’s great links courses.”
“This reputation is also reflected in the size and quality of the entry which includes many of the world’s top amateurs attempting to add their name to the list of winners of the Ladies’ British Amateur, one of golf’s most revered championships.”
Competitors play one round on each of Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 June and the top 64 enter the match play stage starting on Thursday 15 June.
The full list of competitors can be viewed at www.lgu.org.