The rookie class of 2016

The Ladies European Tour will hold the Final Stage of Lalla Aïcha Tour School for 2017 in Marrakech from Saturday, December 17 through to Wednesday, December 21.

Morocco is hosting the competition for the fifth consecutive year and the Final Stage is played over five rounds of 18 holes. The field of 115 players is split in two groups and will alternate over the first four rounds between Amelkis Golf Club and Samanah Country Club. There will be a cut to the top 60 and ties after the fourth round and the final round will be contested at Samanah Country Club.

Players who finish in the top 30 and ties will earn Ladies European Tour Membership in category 8 for 2017, while those that finish from positions 31st to 60th and ties after the cut will earn Membership in Category 9b.

The Final Stage follows four Pre- Qualifying tournaments that have run over the last month, in Morocco, Colombia and Cambodia. A total of 75 players advanced from Pre-Qualifying to join 19 amateurs and the current LET Members looking to retain their membership at the Final Stage.

The field of 115 players features players representing 31 countries. France has the most representatives with 19, followed by England with 17 and Spain with 13. Sweden has eight players, while India has seven competitors in the field.

THE ADITI EFFECT

Last year, there were two Indian players in the field: Aditi Ashok and Neha Tripathi. Aditi went on to win the Final Stage by three strokes with a five-round total score of 337, 23-under-par, which included a third round of 62 and became the first Indian player to win on the LET at the age of 17. Aditi was recently crowned as the LET’s Rookie of the Year for 2016 following a sensational season which included back-to-back tournament victories at the Hero Women’s Indian Open and Qatar Ladies Open. She finished second on the LET Order of Merit in the year that she also represented India in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as a Rookie.

This year, Neha Tripathi has returned and will compete as part of the field along with compatriots Gaurika Bishnoi, Amandeep Drall, Vani Kapoor, Sharmila Nicollet, Anisha Padukone and Saaniya Sharma as part of the largest Indian contingent ever to play in a tournament on the LET outside India, demonstrating golf’s growth in popularity in the country.

Anisha is expected to attract attention as she is part of a famous family: her sister, Deepika, is one of the most popular and highly paid actresses in India, while her father, Prakash, was the 1979 All England badminton champion and the first major sports star in India.

A GAME FOR ALL AGES

Youth is served well at Lalla Aïcha Tour School for 2017 as there are 19 teenagers in the field, but there are also 24 players born in the 1980s or earlier. The youngest player is 16-year-old Madelene Stavnar from Norway, who was born on 9th December 2000. The most senior player is 40-year-old Sophie Sandolo, born on 20th July 1976.

MADELENE SAGSTROM TARGETING SOLHEIM CUP PICK

Madelene Sagstrom from Sweden dominated the Pre-Qualifying B tournament, which concluded on Sunday at Royal Golf Anfa Mohammedia in Morocco.

The 24-year-old from Inkoping fired rounds of 66, 66, 72 and 67 for a total of 17-under-par 271, ending 11 strokes ahead of Céline Boutier from France. Having won three tournaments and topped the Symetra Tour Ranking, Sagstrom already has her LPGA card and is targeting LET Membership in order to qualify for a Solheim Cup pick from European Captain Annika Sörenstam.  Speaking about last week, the 24-year-old from Inkoping said: “I just wanted to test my game to the limit to see how well I could play and I think I played my best 72-hole tournament ever, so it was a really good week. I was able to play as freely as I could. My goal this week is exactly the same. I really like the Samanah course. I haven’t played the Amelkis yet, but I really like this one. I like the layout and I think it fits my game really well. The greens are really tough, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a lot about course management and I’ve got my brother on the bag so my goal is to make him learn as much as possible too.”

THE ASIAN CONNECTION

The LET held four tournaments in China in 2016, as well as The Queens presented by Kowa, in Japan. It is no secret that the young Chinese players have been steadily improving since the LET first held a tournament in the country in 2008. Yan Liu, 18, is one of the young guns to watch, having won Pre-Qualifier C, at Angkor Golf Resort in Cambodia last month, with a massive 14 stroke margin of victory! She is joined at the Final Stage by compatriot Rong Ji, as well as Ji Eun-Jung from South Korea and Hana Wakimoto from Japan.

Tee times will be available here