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Toy Eyes Title Defence

England’s Emily Toy maintained her bid to successfully defend the Women’s Amateur Championship after reaching the last-16 at West Lancashire.

The 22-year-old, who claimed victory at Royal County Down last year, is aiming to become the first player since Sweden’s Louise Stahle in 2005 to retain the championship.

Having progressed on the cut mark for stroke play qualifying, Toy found her form in the match play stages to continue her quest for a historic success at the north-west venue.

Toy form

At the 117th staging of the championship, Toy saw off the challenge of fellow Englishwoman Isabelle Simpson with a one-hole win in the morning before following it up with a comfortable 5&4 triumph over Ireland’s Jessica Ross.

“I’m trying not to give up the title,” she admitted. “Obviously, making the cut on the mark was a relief and coming through two rounds I’m pleased to be where I am. It was a really good match this morning and I was pleased to get the win. This afternoon I played nicely again. I have been struggling a little bit with form coming into this event, so it has been nice to actually see some nice shots.

“At the start of the week, in my eyes, the trophy was out there for anyone to win. I’m just coming to an event trying to win like everyone else. If I can keep doing the right things and if that is good enough at the end of the week then great. It’s my first time here and I’m really enjoying it.”

In-form Emily Price, who won the English Women’s Amateur Championship earlier this month and was among the leading stroke play qualifiers, maintained her bid for more glory, beating Hulda Clara Gestsdottir from Iceland 2&1 to reach the last-16.

Sibling rivalry

Denmark’s Amalie Leth-Nissen – who was the leading qualifier on card countback – lost out to her older sister, Cecilie, at the final hole in an emotional contest in the opening tie of the day. It was a notable triumph, given Cecilie is ranked 765th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) compared to Amalie at 47th.

However, Scotland’s Hannah Darling, 17, the Girls’ Under-16 Open Champion in 2018, then ended the hopes of Leth-Nissen in the afternoon with a one-hole victory.

Darling said, “It feels good to reach the last-16. I was just solid out there today. In both matches I think I was two down after three, so I’m just really proud of how I ground it out and stuck in there. It’s the type of golf course where anything can happen. I wouldn’t say it is a course you can go low on, you have to grind it out and scramble.

“I heard Cecilie had a close game in the morning with her sister, I’m friends with them both, and it was then nice to have a good match against her too. It’s my first time in the Women’s Amateur, but it’s match play and I’ve done well in those events in the past so I just have to keep it going. I’m probably younger than most people out there but as my dad says, age has nothing to do it with it, and it’s about performing.” 

Nobilio in form

Of the other leading qualifiers from Wednesday, Rosie Belsham lost to Annabel Bailey by one hole and Carolina Melgrati from Italy also exited at the 19th to Wales’ Ffion Tynan.

Tynan continued her form as she defeated Laura Webb, the oldest player in the field at 57, with a 2&1 victory. Italian Alessia Nobilio, the world number five, quietly went about her work to reach the last-16, while two German players, Paula Schulz-Hanssen and Aline Krauter, also progressed. Lily May Humphreys, the highest-ranked English player in the field, now faces Schulz-Hanssen tomorrow.

“I’m happy to be in the last-16,” said Schulz-Hanssen. “I played pretty good today. I played 32 holes in the two matches and I had 12 birdies and only four bogeys. It is tough playing 36 holes in the one day. I was level par for the stroke play qualifying, but today was even better.

“The course is so beautiful to play, so amazing. There are so many holes where you can really attack the flag. If you hit good shots, you can get good results. It’s my first time playing in the event and I’m playing well. I won the Swiss Amateur a few weeks ago and the European Young Masters last year.”

Humphreys hopes

Ahead of their tie, Humphreys said, “It feels really good. It’s my best so far in this championship. I haven’t done that great in it before. Hopefully I can carry on through tomorrow to the semi-finals. I feel like I played solid today, tee to green, just didn’t hole a massive amount of putts. It was less breezy out there today, a little drizzle in the afternoon, but the conditions were better.”

With Krauter also among the German hopes, she added, “I’m enjoying it, the course is great. It’s been a long day but what definitely helped me today was my irons were pretty good. In the first match, my putting was also super solid. I struggled with my putting in the second round but today, overall, I hit the fairway on most holes and that definitely helped.

“The weather has been fine, other than earlier in the week, and you can’t do much about it anyway. I’ve played the event a couple of times and I’m used to these conditions. This is the furthest I’ve ever been in the event and we will see what tomorrow brings.”

However, there was disappointment for home club member Hollie Muse and Scotland’s Hazel MacGarvie as they exited at the last-64 stage.

The match play continues tomorrow, with the last-16 and quarter-final ties played, ahead of Saturday’s semi-finals and the 18-hole Final. 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 can be found here.