Jess Baker returned home from college in the US for the summer holidays and claimed one of the biggest prizes in women’s amateur golf after a week of superb performances at Hunstanton.
Jess, 19, produced an impressive display to win the 119th Women’s Amateur Championship – beating Sweden’s Louise Rydqvist 4&3 in the 36-hole final. Having defeated in-form duo Emilie Alba Paltrinieri and Hannah Darling in Saturday’s quarter and semi-finals, Jess continued her form to come out on top from a field of 144 players representing 24 countries.
“It’s an amazing feeling, just incredible. I can’t believe it,” said Jess after the final. “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 to give me this opportunity.
“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.”
A member of Gosforth Park Ladies and part of the University of Central Florida’s women’s golf team, Jess became the fifth English winner of the event in the last 13 years and celebrated with her dad, Steve, who caddied, and her mum, Louise.
“My dad has been absolutely amazing,” added Jess. “I can’t fault him. 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.”
Having had to hole a 25ft putt to reach the matchplay stages as one of the top-64 players after 36 holes of strokeplay, her triumph was even more noteworthy.
With the win, Jess earned places in the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield, US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach, The Amundi Evian Championship and, by tradition, an invitation to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“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,” added Jess.
“And Augusta, oh, my gosh. That’s not really come to my mind yet to be honest, but it will be an incredible experience.”
Ranked 518th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings at the start of the week, Jess joined an impressive list of tournament winners including LPGA winner Leona Maguire and major champions Georgia Hall, Catriona Matthew and Anna Nordqvist.
Coached by Hexham’s Andy Paisley, Jess won the closing four holes in-a-row to lead 143rd-ranked Louise 3up after 18 holes in the final. After the lead was extended to 5up through 28 holes, Louise won the 29th and 30th holes after dropped shots from Jess, who then bounced back at the 31st.
A 22ft birdie putt at the par three 14th saw the Swede reply once more, but Jess held her nerve, rolling in a winning 5ft putt for birdie.