Five players finished under par to lead stroke play qualifying at the 117th Women’s Amateur Championship at West Lancashire.
At the renowned venue in the north-west, the English trio of Emily Price, Rosie Belsham and Isabelle Simpson were joined by Carolina Melgrati from Italy and Denmark’s Amalie Leth-Nissen in signing for one-under-par rounds of 71.
From a starting field of almost 100 competitors aged from 13 to 57, the quintet led the top 64 players into the match play stage.
Three players finished next best on level par – Ireland’s Paula Grant, Victoria Levy from Switzerland and Germany’s Paula Schulz-Hanssen.
With stroke play qualifying reduced to one round after Tuesday’s inclement weather, play was delayed a further hour on Wednesday morning due to strong winds. West Lancashire, hosting the championship for the first time, was then blessed with far more favourable conditions.
Home players thrive
In-form Price, who won the English Women’s Amateur Championship earlier this month, was three under par for her last 14 holes, with recent North East Faldo Series winner Belsham playing the tougher back nine in one-under.
“Starting the round with high winds and the rain we had, I wasn’t expecting under par,” said Price. “I got off to a slow start, but I was solid from then and had a good back nine with three birdies. I’ve been playing well recently and it’s good to keep my form going. I’ll just give it my best shot in the match play.”
Blesham added, “I played to the middle of the greens, holed one or two good putts, but left a few out there as well. I’m coming off a very hot streak, playing well in the north-east, and hope to continue it. I lost to Lily May Humphreys in the semi-finals of the English Women’s Amateur and my confidence is high.”
Leth-Nissen - who finished as the leading qualifier on countback - claimed three birdies in her last five holes, while Melgrati made timely back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th. Simpson dropped just two shots in her own one-under effort. Leth-Nissen now faces sibling rivalry as she meets sister, Cecilie, in the opening last-64 tie tomorrow morning.
“I didn’t have big expectations,” said Amalie. “My main focus was just to enjoy it and play as well as I could, maybe play a little bit safe. It was really windy when we started. It’s not the best weather in Denmark and I’ve played Girls’ and Women’s events over here in the UK, so I’m used to the conditions. Myself and Cecilie train a lot together, always play the same tournaments and hope the best for each other.”
The cut for the leading 64 players (ties for the last place were decided by card countback) fell at six-over-par.
Muse moves on
Defending champion Emily Toy sealed her place on the cut mark, with home club member Hollie Muse and Italian Alessia Nobilio, the world number five, also progressing on one-over and two-over respectively. Laura Webb, a two-time Senior Women’s Amateur champion, also progressed on three-over.
Muse said, “I just tried to hit fairways and greens, which I did. I holed a few putts for two birdies which was nice but when I made the three bogeys, I just took my medicine. One over was probably the worst score I wanted, so I’m happy to qualify and we move on. My plan was to play safe and use my home advantage. Par was my friend today.”
Nobilio added, “I’m happy with the way I played. I felt really good. I was one under after nine holes and my game was very solid. I didn’t make some up-and-downs on the back nine, but it’s fine and I’m into the match play. I like to be among the favourites but the field is strong with very good players.”
The match play stage gets underway tomorrow with each tie consisting of one round of 18 holes including the Final on Saturday. 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.
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Match play draw available here