Jess Baker has spoken of her immense pride after claiming the biggest title of her career and winning the 119th Women’s Amateur Championship at Hunstanton.
The former England girls’ squad player, still only 19, shone in the sun over the Norfolk links to achieve a 4&3 success against Sweden’s Louise Rydqvist in the 36-hole final.
Having defeated in-form duo Emilie Alba Paltrinieri and Hannah Darling yesterday, Baker continued her form to come out on top from a field of 144 players representing 24 countries this week.
Baker, who is member of Gosforth Park near Newcastle-upon-Tyne and attends the University of Central Florida in Orlando, became the fifth English winner of the coveted Championship in the last 13 years and celebrated with her dad, Steve, who caddied, and her mum, Louise.
Having had to hole a 25-foot putt just to reach the match play stages, her triumph was even more noteworthy.
By virtue of her victory, Baker earns dream places in the AIG Women’s Open, US Women’s Open, The Amundi Evian Championship and, by tradition, an invitation to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship.
After the win, Baker said: “It’s an amazing feeling, just incredible. I can’t believe it. I’m absolutely stunned but I’m just so happy. I worked really, really hard to get here and it’s just such a satisfying feeling.
“Yesterday, in particular, was an absolutely dream day. I holed everything and hit it amazing.
“It all came together yesterday to give me this opportunity. So, yeah, it’s been a long time coming and I’m just really proud of myself.
“I didn’t do anything special today. I just got ahead and then kept the lead. It was about the person making the least mistakes today.”
With dad Steve on the bag, it was a family affair for the Bakers and there are exciting times ahead for the teenager.
“He has been absolutely amazing. I can’t fault him,” added Baker who came through the England Golf player pathway and regional squads in the north-east.
“He does get on my nerves sometimes but he always does it for the right reasons.
“We just work as such a good team and he’s been a huge part of this week.
“Playing in the AIG Women’s Open is something I’ve really wanted to do for a long time and this means I don’t have to pre-qualify which is great because that was the plan next week.
“And Augusta, oh, my gosh. That’s not really come to my mind yet to be honest. But it will be an incredible experience, all just great opportunities for me.”
Baker, ranked 518th on the World Amateur Golf Rankings, also joins an impressive list of past winners including LPGA victor Leona Maguire and major winners Georgia Hall, Catriona Matthew and Anna Nordqvist – last year’s AIG Women’s Open Champion at Carnoustie.
Coached by Andy Paisley at Hexham Golf Club – the brother of Tour player, Chris – Baker won the closing four holes of the morning session to lead by three at lunch after mistakes from Rydqvist opened the door.
It was a tight contest in the afternoon but after the lead was extended to five up through 28 holes, Rydqvist was unable to make a stirring comeback as Baker eclipsed her run to the quarter-finals last year.
The Newcastle native held her nerve, rolling in a winning five-foot putt for birdie.
In a further honour, Hunstanton handed Baker honorary membership at the prize presentation.
After Hunstanton held this year’s event for the first time in 50 years, the 120th Women’s Amateur Championship is being staged at Prince’s on the Kent coast from 13-18 June 2023.
Photography credit: The R&A