An international field of 144 elite women’s amateur golfers will tee up at Hillside this week when the 115th Ladies British Open Amateur Championship takes place at the Southport links for the first time in 41 years from the 26th – 30th of June.
Olivia Mehaffey / Image from Cashman Photography
Golfers from 24 countries across Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas will bid to secure the prestigious title at the Lancashire layout and earn a place in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at nearby Royal Lytham & St Annes from 2-5 August.
Ireland’s Leona Maguire defeated Ainhoa Olarra 3&2 in last year’s final at Pyle & Kenfig to become the first Irishwoman to win the championship since Stephanie Meadow in 2012. Another Irish player who has designs on lifting the trophy this year is Olivia Mehaffey, one of the leading players in the field at 17th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
The 20-year-old is joined by six of her team-mates who played in the Great Britain and Ireland side which lost to the United States in the Curtis Cup at Quaker Ridge earlier this month including England’s Sophie Lamb.
“I’m excited,” said Mehaffey, of Royal County Down Ladies. “I haven’t played links golf since before Christmas so it will be nice to get back into that format again. It was also nice to play some match play at the Curtis Cup and get prepared for this week so I’m looking forward to it.”
“The competiveness in New York will help, as that was also the first match play I had played since November. I think myself and Sophie are both playing really well, we had some really good matches at the Curtis Cup. We were competing against players ranked in the top ten in the world so you have to learn from it.”
Ireland’s other competitors in the prestigious event are, Jessica Ross (Clandeboye), Mairead Martin (Kanturk), Sinead Sexton (Lahinch), Paula Grant (Lisburn) and Annabel Wilson (Lurgan) who will all be looking for a strong showing.
Lamb, who plays out of Clitheroe in Lancashire, hopes to have family and friends cheering her on as she also seeks success among an English contingent of 24 players at Hillside.
Sweden’s Frida Kinhult, 18, is the highest-ranked player in the field at 7th in WAGR, with Canadian Maddie Szeryk the next best-placed at 16th.
Hannah McCook, 24, from Scotland, is chasing another title after her Welsh and Irish Open Stroke Play victories already this year. Lily May Humphreys, who won last year’s Girls British Open Amateur Championship and English Women’s Amateur Championship aged only 15, will also hope to build on her win at the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open Championship in April.
Hillside is located in Southport in the heart of England’s ‘Golf Coast’ and is situated adjacent to Royal Birkdale as well as Southport & Ainsdale, with Formby close by. A true championship links, Hillside is a regular venue for Final Qualifying for The Open and has also hosted prestigious events including The Amateur Championship.
The first stage of the Championship involves 144 players, each of whom plays two rounds of 18 holes in stroke play. The 64 lowest scores over the 36 holes will compete in the match play stage of the Championship, ahead of the 18-hole Final.
The Pam Barton Memorial Salver is awarded to the winner of the Championship, while the runner-up receives The Diana Fishwick Cup. An international team award is presented after the stroke play qualifying rounds.