One of the strongest international fields in the 116-year history of The Women’s Amateur Championship will assemble at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland next week.
At close of entries, 12 players sat inside the top 50 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking with the 144-player field made up of competitors from 26 countries – including from as far afield as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States of America from June 11-14.
Leonie Harm returns as the defending champion having defeated Stephanie Lau of the United States 3&2 at Hillside in 2018, sealing the biggest win of her career and becoming the first winner from Germany.
Harm, the second highest ranked player in the field at 14th in the world, is bidding to become the first player to win back-to-back titles since Sweden’s Louise Stahle’s victories in 2004 and 2005.
“I’m looking forward to defending my title at Royal County Down this year, which I understand is a fantastic course,” said Harm, 21, who is competing for the International Team in the Arnold Palmer Cup ahead of the championship. “It was brilliant to win the championship in 2018 and hopefully that experience can stand me in good stead next week.
“I’ve enjoyed competing in a number of events as champion, such as the Women’s British Open last summer.
“Being the first German player to win The Women’s Amateur was a real honour last year and I feel like I’m playing well again in 2019 to give myself another chance.”
Over the renowned links in the town of Newcastle, Northern Ireland, Harm will face competition from the likes of Italian teenager Alessia Nobilio, the top-ranked player in the field at number 12, who lost to Lau in the quarter-finals 12 months ago.
In-form English player Lily May Humphreys, who has won the Irish and Welsh Women’s Open Stroke Play titles already this year, reigning Girls Amateur Champion Emma Spitz from Austria and Swede Linn Grant are also hopeful of success.
Lisburn’s Paula Grant is the leading Irish hope following the withdrawal of Olivia Mehaffey due to injury.
As well as lifting the coveted trophy, the winner gains 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.
Past champions include Anna Nordqvist (2008), Georgia Hall (2013) and Céline Boutier (2015), while Leona Maguire was the last Irish player to win the title in 2017.
Continuing an exciting golfing summer for Northern Ireland with The Open set for Royal Portrush in July, Royal County Down is hosting the championship for the ninth occasion.
Founded in 1889, the course has witnessed many prestigious championships at amateur and professional level, including the Walker Cup (2007), the Curtis Cup (1968) and The Amateur Championship (1970 and 1999).
On the last staging of The Women’s Amateur at Royal County Down in 2006, it was Belén Mozo from Spain who emerged victorious.
The first stage of the championship involves 144 players playing two rounds of stroke play on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 June. The leading 64 players will then advance to the match play stage from Thursday 13 June to Saturday 15 June. Each match will consist of one round of 18 holes, including the Final.
Entry is free of charge throughout the week 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.