The European Nations Cup, this year’s first Ladies European Tour event on European soil, will feature its best field yet with the announcement that team Sweden represented by Anna Nordqvist and Sophie Gustafson, will return to defend their title at La Sella Golf in Denia, Alicante, 14-17 April.
In the tournament, teams are represented by the best two players from each country, from the LET’s Henderson Money List and the Rolex World Rankings. The 2011 edition will have 16 European countries and two invitations – United States and Australia.
Sweden defeated Australians Karen Lunn and Karrie Webb in a tense play-off last year and Lunn, the 2010 Portugal Ladies Open champion, will be hoping to make amends with her new playing partner Katherine Hull, who captured her second LPGA title at the 2010 Navistar Classic and was second to Yani Tseng at the Ricoh Women’s British Open last year.
The United States duo of Christina Kim and Brittany Lincicome, both of whom are recent Solheim Cup players, will make their debut in the event. Kim is looking forward to sampling the fine Valencian culture and hospitality after her visit to Spain’s Costa del Sol for the Open de España last year.
Kim said: “I had always heard how much fun and how exciting the European Nations Cup, and I love to bring some excitement to the game and bring the game to new people! I am planning on coming in a few days early so I can get acclimatised to and visit the region. I have never been to the area and can’t wait to visit!
“I plan on bringing home a trophy with my teammate, Brittany Lincicome! I plan on it being a very fierce competition, and wonderful players like Mel Reid, Anna Norqvist, and many others will help us to make it an incredible championship and make it a lot of fun too!”
Scotland will be represented by the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion Catriona Matthew and Vikki Laing, who finished 10th on the LET’s Henderson Money List last season. Laing almost replaced Matthew last year when there were fears that the prolific Solheim Cup player would not arrive in time due to travel chaos caused by volcanic ash.
England will field two of the LET’s greatest talents in 79-time tournament winner Laura Davies, who won five titles last season and the LET’s current No.1 on the Henderson Money List, Melissa Reid, who earned her maiden title at the 2010 Turkish Airlines Ladies Open.
France has another strong team in three-time winner on Tour Virginie Lagoutte-Clement and Karine Icher, a five-time event champion. Lagoutte-Clement, the 2010 Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open winner, is third on the 2011 European Solheim Cup team standings and enjoys team competition.
She said: “Since I turned professional I’ve played as a team only once with Gwladys Nocera during the World Cup in South Africa where we finished fifth. The feeling you have to have given your best not only for yourself but also for your partner or team takes you to a better level. If we could have more team competition, I would be the happiest girl!
“I am sure we will have a good result; Karine is currently playing well and we will play without any pressure here. I don’t know the course, but Sébastien, my husband who was caddying for Anne-Lise Caudal two years ago, described it to me and it sounds good. Karine and I are both players who made a lot of birdies and the format of play is good for us. With my game I can combine with all kinds of player, as I am long and can play all kinds of shots.”
The home nation of Spain will have a formidable young team in Azahara Muñoz and María Hernández. Muñoz, the 2009 Madrid Ladies Masters champion, was the 2010 LPGA Rookie of the Year while Hernández secured victory at last year’s Allianz Ladies Slovak Open in her rookie season.
Wales will see Becky Brewerton and Lydia Hall pair up for the second time and Brewerton fancies their chances as she is representing Wales for the third time, while Ireland’s Rebecca Coakley and Martina Gillen will be hoping to ignite their season in Valencia.
Iben Tinning, who won her farewell event at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters in December, will make a special appearance representing Denmark with Malene Jorgensen.
The Russian duo of Maria Verchenova and Anastasia Kostina will bring an added element of glamour to proceedings and will hope to improve on their sixth place finish in 2008.
Christel Boeljon, who was part of the winning Dutch team when she was a rookie in 2009, pairs up with Dewi Claire Schreefel for the first time in the competition.
The 2010 Lalla Meryem Cup champion Anja Monke joins second year player Caroline Masson in representing Germany.
Italy will see good friends Veronica Zorzi and Giulia Sergas team up for the third time and they have an exemplary record in the event, finishing third in 2010 and tied second in 2009. Zorzi also tied for fifth with Stefania Croce in 2008.
Austria will see Nicole Gergely pair up with Stefanie Michl; Jenni Kuosa and Ursula Wikstrom will fly the flag for Finland, while Caroline Rominger and Frederique Seeholzer will tee up representing Switzerland.
First played in 2008, when it was won by the English pair of Trish Johnson and Rebecca Hudson, the event has grown year by year, improving the quality of the field and establishing itself as a player favourite on the calendar.
As in previous years, there will be a number of glamorous activities on offer, including a ‘Pink Party’ to welcome competitors and guests on Tuesday 12th April. BMW has been added to the impressive list of event sponsors as the official car.