Carlyon Bay golfer Emily Toy has welcomed the chance to get back on the green – but the Cornish star is looking ahead to a much-changed calendar, writes Andrew Clayton.
Toy clinched the Women’s British Amateur title in remarkable circumstances last year, defying her world ranking of 450 to defeat some of the best golfers from around the globe.
This year, she was primed for a debut at the US Women’s Open, as well as at Augusta National, home of the Masters Tournament, all the while pushing to retain her place in the English national team.
The outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19), however, has had a dire impact on the sport, with most events pushed back or cancelled. It was only last week, following new guidance from England Golf, that players were allowed to return to courses and play two-balls with an individual from another household.
While Toy is now free to get back on the green, she has hardly stood still under lockdown, continuing to train and even taking part in online Q and As, uploading light-hearted videos at home and generally looking to keep spirits up and interest in the game.
She told The Independent: “I was able to get to Carlyon Bay last week – usually during the season I struggle to get back to my home course, just because of how much I am away. It’s nice to have this time to go back to my roots and spend time at the club and with the members that support me so much.
“My dad made a golf net so that I was able to hit full shots, and we were also able to get an artificial putting green fitted in the garden. I was very lucky that a family friend lives pretty close and they have some land, so I would cycle to her field with my golf clubs in a rucksack.
“Sharing my lockdown experiences, like my fitness and home practise routines, will hopefully inspire people to create their own. It’s amazing what you can do with a bucket and couple of golf balls! It’s a very unprecedented time for everyone at the moment and I think that it’s essential to help and support everyone. It’s important to encourage the younger generation to get involved within the game and hopefully inspire others to take it up.”
In the wake of the ongoing pandemic, the country has been constantly told that it may face a ‘new normal’ for months to come. Golf, like any other sport, will have to adapt itself to suit this, although its individual nature may allow a lighter burden.
“I think golf lends itself really well to social distancing guidelines,” Toy added. “At the moment, most golf courses are only allowing play in pairs, so it’s easy to keep two metres apart.
“With all the other safeguards in place, I feel very safe out on the course. The pace of play is also great – I am doing 18 holes in three hours at the moment! In terms of sport as a whole, though, it really depends on whether the social distancing protocols can be put in place, which is down to the national governing body of each individual sport.”
Whether tournaments will still be played is another question. Toy has plenty of events pencilled in for 2020, and while she keeps practicing with support from the national team, the only other thing left to do is wait.
“I have quite a small compact schedule, mostly during August and September,” she continued. “The next event for me at the moment is the English Women’s Amateur at the end of July.
“It was disappointing not to be able to play Augusta this year, however it was the correct decision to cancel the event and I’ll be able to play Augusta next year, as my exemption from winning the Women’s Amateur will continue onto next season, as long as I stay as an amateur.
“The US Women’s Open is now looking at being played in December. It’s not ideal with the amateur season finishing in September, which means that I’m going to have a three-month gap of no competitive golf before the event. I’m going to have to see financially if it’s going to be possible so we will see.
“There are a few more international events left this year, most of which are in August and September, so hopefully I can get selected for those. I’ve been really lucky to still be connected to England Golf over the lockdown period, we have weekly team chats and I’m in regular communication with the coaches, with access to nutritionist, a strength and conditioning coach, putting coach, psychologist and swing coach.
“They have all been very helpful at this time to make sure that I am still able to practise effectively and manage myself as an athlete.
“Really, it really depends on the next few months and how we control the virus as to how much I will be able to play. However, it is good to have a focus point to work towards.”