Golf prodigy Lily May Humphreys has been given a major boost at the start of the 2019 season after receiving an invitation to play in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The three-day championship was announced at last year’s Masters and will see Lily competing in a field of 72. She is the second-highest ranked English amateur female player in the world and previously made the shortlist for SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award back in 2017.
The 16-year-old, who has been supported by SportsAid since 2016 and uses the financial backing to help her enter more competitions, is currently focusing on her golf full-time. She wishes to turn professional and considers playing on the LPGA Tour and winning a major among her long-term ambitions. Lily is participating in her first competition of the year this Wednesday (30 January) as she tees off at the Portuguese International Ladies’ Amateur Championship.
Here, Lily reflects on last year's experiences, looks ahead to what 2019 has in store, and emphasises the importance of her family’s support....
You received an invitation earlier this month for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. How excited are you for the prospect of playing at Augusta?
“I’m so ecstatic to be playing in the tournament and to be able to play Augusta is going to be super exciting. I was able to qualify for the event by being in the top 30 non-American golfers in the women’s world amateur rankings. I’m most excited to play Amen Corner. I’ve seen it on TV so many times but I didn’t ever think I would get to play it. I always hoped I might play there one day and now I’m going to be playing in the first ever women’s competition to be held there!”
You competed in the Curtis Cup and the Youth Olympic Games last year. What did you learn from the two experiences?
“They were both amazing and very different experiences! I loved playing in both of them, and there was always loads of things going on both on and off the golf course. We had to deal with lots of media coverage at the Curtis Cup. It was shown live in the US so there were lots of cameras, soundmen, interviews and ceremonies. The Youth Olympics was the first multi-sport competition I’d played in. The best thing was the Olympic Village - it was like having our own private town. Also, when my golf was finished I could watch the other athletes that were competing locally. I watched the boxing, gymnastics, trampolining and karate.”
You won the Helen Holm earlier that year. How significant a victory was that for you?
“I put some pressure on myself before I went there because it was a competition I really wanted to win. My clearest memory was walking down to the 18th green and wondering why my friend Mimi [Rhodes] was standing there as she had finished her round hours earlier and the weather was atrocious. When I finished she hugged me and said ‘I waited because I knew you would win’. I had started the final round one shot behind.”
What are your key aims for the year ahead? And what is your main long-term ambition?
“I’m aiming for the Junior Solheim Cup and to get in the ladies Vagliano team and to hopefully get a couple of wins. My long-term goals are to be a pro on the LPGA tour and to play in the pro Solheim Cup. Also, to win a major would be cool! The ANA Inspiration is the one I’d most like to win because the winner gets to jump in Poppie’s Pond. I played in the junior ANA Inspiration last year and the winner of that also gets to jump in the pond. All the other competitors were in the stands shouting ‘JUMP, JUMP!!’”
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career so far?
“Avoiding negativity. I haven’t been able to completely avoid negativity but you have to learn not to listen to the negative comments some people may make and have a strong mind to overcome them - which is not always easy. A positive mindset is crucial to play golf, you have to be confident and not get down on yourself if you hit bad shots.”
Do you feel the awareness and recognition for women’s golf has grown more in recent years?
“I feel like it has definitely progressed but it still has a long way to go for sure! I love playing in front of large crowds and there are a lot of people trying to grow the women’s game. Gary Player is a big supporter of women’s golf and he has proposed that the men on tour should contribute 1% of their winnings to the women’s tour. Niall Horan is also a strong supporter of women’s golf and his company has introduced a new event on the Ladies European Tour for 2019.”
Lastly, how important has the support of your family been to you in pursuing your sporting ambitions?
“I couldn’t do this without the support of my parents. My mum organises all the travel, accommodation and competition entries. My dad takes me to practice every day and to my coaching sessions. They mostly both take me to the competitions which can be all over the world.”
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