England’s Jess Baker is onto the finals of the Women's Amateur
England’s Jess Baker and Louise Rydqvist from Sweden will meet in the final match of the 119th Women’s Amateur Championship after both players produced memorable performances at Hunstanton Golf Club on Friday.
Newcastle native Baker ousted in-form duo Emilie Alba Paltrinieri from Italy and Curtis Cup player Hannah Darling to reach the 36-hole Final over the Norfolk links.
Rydqvist, who has just finished her freshman year at the University of South Carolina, rallied from two down with three to play to win all three holes and edge out Spain’s Carla Bernat – the fifth knock-out match in a row she has won at the 18th or in extra holes this week.
There is much at stake tomorrow with the winner earning places in the AIG Women’s Open, US Women’s Open, The Amundi Evian Championship and, by tradition, an invitation to the Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship.
Dream day for Baker
Baker, ranked 518th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) and a student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, produced one of her best displays to oust reigning R&A Girls’ Amateur Champion Darling, who sits 16th on WAGR®.
Darling, 18, drove through the green on the opening par-4 but lost the hole to Baker’s birdie. Darling fought back but bogeyed the 5th and was then bunkered at the 6th to go behind before Baker’s birdie at the par-5 8th gave her a two-hole lead.
The 19-year-old from Newcastle then made a brilliant eagle at the par-5 11th to increase her lead to three before Darling, who was seeking back-to-back Scottish successes after Louise Duncan’s win last year, hit back at the 12thand 15th with birdies. But a superb birdie from Baker at the short 16th and an up-and-down for par at the next, helped by a decisive 20-foot putt, saw her triumph 2&1.
“It’s incredible,” said Baker. “I absolutely never expected this one bit so it's just an amazing feeling. I think I was just really steady and I really was confident in my game. I sort of played my own game, got a few holes ahead, and just matched Hannah the rest of the way.
“I made eagle on 11, had a lovely 4-iron in, and it was nice to get that one in. It was nice to have that momentum boost.
“My mum is supposed to be home, but she's staying around now. I'm very happy that my family are here and it means a lot. I'm just going to go out and enjoy myself tomorrow and whatever it is, it will be.”
In warm and windy conditions, Bernat, 18, and Rydqvist, 20, shared eight birdies between them in a high-quality front nine, with Bernat holding the edge by a hole.
The pair then shared the next four holes, after both bogeying the 11th and making birdies at the 12th, before Bernat went two ahead with a birdie at the short 14th. It looked like a good advantage but she bogeyed the 16th and 17th to allow Rydqvist to draw level. The Spaniard’s sliced drive at the 18th led to another bogey and the Swede – 143rd on WAGR® and making her Championship debut – made par for a one-hole victory.
“I don't know if I have words to describe the feelings right now,” said Rydqvist. “It's just so overwhelming and I'm so extremely happy about what happened out there and that I managed to keep it going up the last three holes and finish on 18.
“There's no better feeling than actually winning on 18 and there's no better feeling of winning when you've been down the whole day and you've been just fighting it through. As I said, I can't describe the feelings I'm feeling right now.
“This is probably the biggest achievement in my golf career so far and a win would be even bigger so I can't wait to get out there tomorrow.”
In the morning’s quarterfinals, there was a brave bid from Kelsey Bennett who took Rydqvist into overtime. The Swede made a superb birdie at the 16th to go two up but her Aussie opponent made a 25-foot birdie putt at the 17thand then won the 18th with a par to keep the match alive. The pair both birdied the 19th after Rydqvist almost drove the green, before she prevailed at the 20th.
England's Rebecca Earl birdied the opening hole and maintained an early lead against Bernat in their last-four tie, yet birdies from the Spaniard at the 8th and 9th turned the match around. Earl replied with an eagle at the 11th but Bernat closed out a one-hole win.
Baker turned on the style to seal her place in the last four, going one better than her run to the quarter-finals last year at Kilmarnock (Barassie). Two birdies early on helped her to a commanding four-hole lead at the turn against Paltrinieri, who was runner-up in stroke play qualifying. Baker matched her birdies at the 11th and 12th and stayed strong for a 3&2 win.
Darling posted four birdies and just one dropped shot as she ended Italian title hopes, with the Scot claiming a 2&1 victory over Alessandra Fanali.
The finalists are bidding to join an impressive list of former winners including LPGA winner Leona Maguire and major winners Georgia Hall, Catriona Matthew and Anna Nordqvist – last year's AIG Women's Open Champion at Carnoustie.
ABOUT THE Ladies British Amateur
This championship, along with the US Women’s
Amateur Golf Championship, is considered the
important in women’s amateur golf.
The first stage of the Championship involves
players each of whom plays two rounds of 18
The 64 lowest scores over the 36 holes will
in the match play stage of the Championship.
match will consist of one round of 18 holes,
The ‘Pam Barton Memorial Salver’ is awarded to
winner of the Championship, while the runner-
receives The Diana Fishwick Cup. An
team award is presented after the stroke play
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