One hundred and nineteen players, representing 26 different countries gathered at Aroeira GC for the 2004 Ladies European Tour qualifying school, which began on Tuesday around this tight and tree-lined course on the outskirts of the Portuguese capital.

Diane Barnard

Clau also formed part of the Spanish Team who won the 2003 European Amateur Championship at Frankfurt International GC, but is the only member of the team who has decided to try for a living on the Tour.

Virginie Beauchet from France, the individual European amateur champion is also taking the plunge into the professional ranks alongside her bronze medal winning team mates Fany Schaeffer, Peggy Fraysse, Sophie Giquel and Nathalie David.

With so much young and hungry new talent arriving to plunder the LET coffers, the seasoned veterans on the Ladies European Tour will have to be at their best to make sure of their jobs for next season.

One player hoping to continue an unbroken record of 19 straight seasons on Tour is England’s Diane Barnard.

Barnard, winner of the 1990 BMW Classic, played 12 events on the 2003 schedule but missed nine cuts. However, in mitigation the 39-year-old who makes her home in Lytham St Annes, has been juggling her playing career with a successful and popular position as a broadcaster and commentator for women’s golf on Sky Sports.

After three rounds, the field will be cut to the top 50 and ties for the final round with the top 30 players gaining a full exemption to the Ladies European Tour. This outside the top 30 will earn conditional cards for the 2004 season.