Top-class field for English championship at Royal Birkdale

Kelly Tidy

Over 100 of the country’s finest golfers will head for Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Lancashire to contest the 2012 English women’s amateur championship, from May 15-17.

The course – the setting for memorable editions of The Open and the Women’s British Open – will stage a new-look event. This year, for the first time, the championship will have a 72-hole stroke play format.

The local challenge will be led by Kelly Tidy (picture © Leaderboard Photography), a Royal Birkdale member who, as 2010 British champion, also played in the Women’s British Open on the course. Kelly, who will represent GB&I in the Curtis Cup in June, is used to the mixture of local pressure and support. “People do expect you to do well at home and there is that added pressure,” she said. “But you feel comfortable at home and the members here are very supportive.”

Kelly is one of a number of high-profile players in a top-quality field. Among the other competitors are Lauren Taylor (Woburn) who is the British champion and BBC Young Sports personality of the Year, Holly Clyburn (Woodhall Spa) also a member of the 2012 Curtis Cup team, and Georgia Hall (Remedy Oak), one of the team reserves.

There’s a host of champions taking part, including past titleholders Hannah Barwood of Gloucestershire, Emma Brown of Yorkshire and Kerry Smith of Hampshire, alongside reigning English mid-amateur champion Claire Smith, also of Yorkshire.

Younger players are represented by English U13 champion Sammy Fuller of Surrey and U15 titleholder Gabriella Cowley of Essex, while Christine Watson of Buckinghamshire is a past English senior champion.

Lancashire is providing a total of 19 players, among them girl internationals Emily Taylor and Brogan Townend (both Royal Lytham & St Annes) and Nikki Foster (Pleasington), who has also represented England. Neighbouring Cheshire provides another seven players including Charlotte Wild (Mere), a former English strokeplay champion, and Rachael Goodall (Heswall), who tied fifth in last week’s Helen Holm Scottish Open stroke play.

The full field will play 18 holes on each of Tuesday and Wednesday, 15 and 16 May. The field will then be cut to the top 36 players and ties who will play the final 36 holes on Thursday, 17 May.