Daniella Barrett stayed on course to become the first ever Finnish winner of The Women’s Amateur Championship after booking her place in the semi-finals at Royal County Down.
The 20-year-old handled the windy and wet conditions on Northern Ireland’s east coast to keep her bid for history on track in the 116th staging of the event.
Barrett ended the challenge of two-time Netherland’s women’s champion Zhen Bontan by one hole in the last-16, before coming back from two down after 12 holes against Euphemie Rhodes to win 2&1.
After Leonie Harm became the first champion from Germany last year, Barrett faces New Zealand’s Amelia Garvey in tomorrow morning’s semi-final in pursuit of success.
“This has been one of my best-ever events,” said Barrett. “The key has not been to miss the fairways and hit the front and middle of the greens. I was two down at one point in my quarter-final and then made some good birdies to come back. I had a good feeling all the way through.
“This is the second time I’ve played in the event and last year wasn’t great as I missed the cut. I have been playing pretty well and I think the course suits me, which has been important. I love this links course.
“I am aware I would be the first Finnish champion and it’s nice to chase history tomorrow. I’m very excited.”
Garvey is also chasing her own piece of history, seeking to become the first Kiwi to win the championship since Marnie McGuire in 1986.
The 19-year-old fought back from three down after six holes against Kiira Riihijärvi to triumph 3&2 in their quarter-final, after earlier ousting Puk Lyng Thomsen.
She said, “I think I had a good attitude going into the quarter-final, knowing that it was going to be tough. Given the weather it was just a grind so, all in all, I’m really happy.
“It was the first match I’ve been down in this week so to show that I can come back helps me for tomorrow in case anything goes wrong. I am so happy to be in the top four and I definitely want to take it all the way so I’m excited for tomorrow. It would be extra special to win. My family back home are rooting me on and it would mean a lot.”
Biggest success for Swede
In the second semi-final, Linn Grant will look to add to her growing list of achievements.
The Swedish player, the highest-ranked player left in the last four at 25th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, produced two strong displays. Grant, 19, defeated Sara Kouskova by two holes in the last-16 before seeing off the challenge of left-hander Amalie Leth-Nissen, the youngest player in the field aged only 14, by a margin of 5&3.
“It was a good front nine in the quarter-final and then the rain came down,” said Grant. “Amalie is a really good player for her age and is playing amazingly well. She is young and I have been there myself, so I just tried to play my own game and that worked well.
“Winning here would be my biggest success so it would be really nice to do it. I’m going to try and stay relaxed and expect my opponent to hit really good shots and hole putts. I have played a lot of golf in these conditions and I kind of like it. I like these courses when you have to be patient because of the weather.”
The former Junior Solheim Cup player, a lover of links golf after two previous title wins in Scotland, now faces Emily Toy, The R&A Foundation Scholars Tournament winner in 2017.
The English player, 20, held her nerve to beat Min A Yoon at the 20th and then Beatrice Wallin on the final green to progress to the last four.
Flying the flag
Toy said, “It was a real battle in the quarter-final, with the wind picking up and the rain absolutely poured down for the last seven holes. I was really pleased to get it done on the last.
“I’ve just finished university at Exeter and not played and practiced as much as I would have liked but it’s been a good season so far and now to reach a semi-final is fantastic.
“I’ll look to take every shot as it comes tomorrow and not get ahead of myself, given what is at stake. The English players are all playing well just now and it’s nice to fly the flag in the semi-finals.”
With tomorrow’s champion gaining entry to this year’s AIG Women’s British Open at Woburn and the 2019 Evian Championship, as well as next year’s US Women’s Open and the Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship, there is much to play for over a venue that is hosting the event for a ninth occasion.
Both semi-finals are played tomorrow morning, with the 18-hole final taking place from 1pm. Entry is free of charge for all spectators at Royal County Down, while live scoring, news and video can be followed on The R&A’s website and social media platforms.Match Play Results | Semi-final draw