AIG Womens Open

Amateurs ready for thrill of Muirfield

The R&A
02 Aug 22
3 mins

Twelve months ago, Scotland’s Louise Duncan wowed the home crowds and announced her name to the global golfing world after amateur dramatics at the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie.

The then Women’s Amateur Champion memorably finished in a tie for tenth place after a thrilling week in Angus and lifted the Smyth Salver – awarded to the leading amateur at the AIG Women’s Open. Can another amateur now make their own headlines and shine over the famed East Lothian links this week? With Duncan joining the professional ranks – indeed she has past champion Catriona Matthew for company in the opening tee time at 6.30am on Thursday – here we profile the eight amateur golfers seeking to follow in her spike marks at Muirfield.

Jess Baker, England

Baker, 19, earned her way into Muirfield by winning the 119th Women’s Amateur Championship at Hunstanton in Norfolk in June. A 4&3 win over Sweden’s Louise Rydqvist in the 36-hole final was sweeter because dad, Steve, caddied for her.  The Newcastle native, a member of Gosforth Park, attends the University of Central Florida and counts Andy Paisley, brother of European Tour pro Chris, as her coach.  “Playing in the AIG Women’s Open is something I've really wanted to do for a long time,” said Baker, who tees up with Dame Laura Davies in the first two rounds. “It’s a great opportunity for me.” The Newcastle United fan entered the Women’s Amateur ranked 518th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® but triumphed for her biggest victory, also sealing invitations to the US Women’s Open, Amundi Evian Championship and, traditionally, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Anna Davis, USA

In April, Davis made an early name for herself in the amateur ranks at a famous venue. The Augusta National Women's Amateur concluded in dramatic fashion as 16-year-old Davis shot 70, 76, 69 to become the youngest champion in the event's history. Davis, a sophomore in high school, overcame a two-stroke deficit with her final round of three-under-par 69. She was then ranked 100th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) but now sits inside the top 20 as she looks forward to Muirfield.

Savannah De Bock, Belgium

It proved a notable July for De Bock as she won the 2022 European Ladies' Amateur Championship at Golf de Saint-Germain. She entered the final round tied for the lead with England's Charlotte Heath and triumphed after a play-off. The win was the biggest of the 16-year-old's young career and gave her an exemption to compete this week at Muirfield. De Bock also became just the second Belgian player to win the trophy and the first in 34 years.

Mizuki Hashimoto, Japan

At Abu Dhabi Golf Club last November, Hashimoto shot four successive rounds of four-under 68 to win the third edition of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship by one stroke. “I have always seen these tournaments on the television – to be able to play in them is like a dream-come-true for me,” said Hashimoto ahead of her Muirfied bow. “This championship means a lot to me because the winner gets to go to the major events and I’m really excited.” Hashimoto is ranked inside the top 25 on WAGR® and won the Queen Sirikit Cup in Singapore earlier this year.

Ingrid Lindblad, Sweden

The Swede, who is placed second on WAGR®, showed her quality to shine among the pros at Final Qualifying at North Berwick on Monday. Lindblad posted a six-under-par 66 to finish second, a shot behind Liz Young, and comfortably book her spot in the Championship. “It was my first time at North Berwick and I enjoyed it,” said the 22-year-old. “It helps when you don't miss a putt from under 12 feet so the putter was good to me. I’m looking forward to this week.” A nine-time winner at US college level (she attends Louisiana State University), Lindblad continues to impress. Runner-up at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur this year, she shot the lowest round by an amateur in the 77-year history of the US Women's Open, a six-under 65, in June en route to low amateur honours.

Caley McGinty, England

McGinty was GB&I’s leading scorer on her Curtis Cup debut in 2021, securing three-and-a-half points from her five matches, and again played in this year’s team. Last year, McGinty earned the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Golfer and Freshman of the Year awards after securing three wins at Kent State.  She was also a member of the victorious England teams at the European Ladies’ Team Championship and the Women’s Home Internationals. McGinty transferred to Oklahoma State from Kent State prior to the 2021-22 season and made an immediate impact on her new team, winning both the Schooner Fall Classic and the Jim West Challenge before making her Augusta National Women’s Amateur debut in April.

Valery Plata, Colombia

Plata, 20, finished 2021 with three consecutive victories. The native of Floridablanca, Colombia, won the inaugural Women's Amateur Latin America presented by The R&A and ANNIKA Foundation in Argentina by a shot over fellow countrywoman Maria Jose Marin.  After she and Maria were part of the winning Colombian team in the South America Women's Amateur Team Championship in Chile, the Michigan State senior closed her year with a three-shot triumph in the Patriot All-America Invitational in Arizona.

Rose Zhang, USA

Last August, the then 18-year-old from Irvine, California won the Mark H McCormack Medal as the leading female player in the 2021 World Amateur Golf Ranking®. It was her second straight McCormack Medal, having also received the honour the previous October. Zhang has maintained her form in 2022 and remains the number one player in the world. The Stanford student won the individual NCAA Championship by three shots in May. On her 19th birthday, she was presented with the Annika Award for best female college golfer of the year.