(Grenoble, France 29 October 2002) One hundred and thirty one players representing 25 different countries arrived at the foothills of the French Alps to compete for a place on next years Evian Ladies European Tour (LET) at the 2003 Tour qualifying school at Golf Grenoble Charmeil.
Some competitors have travelled from as far away as Australia, Argentina, Japan and Russia to secure their 2003 playing rights on the LET, with only the top 30 and ties after four rounds over this 6101-yard parkland course securing category seven full exemption status for next season.
Joining the professionals who failed to make the top 90 on the order of merit this season are some of the finest newcomers in women’s golf, most notably three-time Curtis Cup team member Rebecca Hudson, who is one of 14 English entrants.
The 23-year-old from Doncaster, who turned professional a month ago, was arguably the most successful amateur golfer of recent years and was often criticised in the media for not joining the paid ranks earlier.
Hudson’s record is impressive and includes two British Amateur titles, two British Strokeplay titles, the Spanish Amateur championship and the Smyth Salver for leading amateur at the Weetabix Women’s British Open at Sunningdale in 2001.
And in 2000, Hudson was undoubtedly a major force in women’s amateur golf, winning five notable titles across Europe which led to much speculation in the media about making the transition to Tour golf, but she decided to stay in the amateur ranks.
“I had a great year in 2000 and perhaps I should have turned professional then,” said Hudson, reflecting back to her most successful year.
“I decided not to because I wanted to be a part of a winning Curtis Cup side, sadly it didn’t happen but staying as an amateur has not done any harm at all and I’ve learned a lot from it.
“I’m proud of my record and no matter what happens, I’ll always be remembered as being a good amateur. But it’s different as now I’m playing for a living and I’m looking forward to this week. All I expect from myself is to play the golf I know I can play and hopefully things will be great come Saturday.”
Accompanying Hudson in a bid for a Tour career are other members of the Curtis Cup and Home International squads, including close friend Kirsty J. Fisher from Lancashire and England Internationals Claire Lipscombe and Sarah Heath.
Scotland’s Claire Hunter will be flying the Saltire for Scotland and Eleanor Pilgrim leads the Welsh charge.
Pilgrim, a softly spoken 25-year-old from Newport, feels she has served her time on the amateur scene and turned her attentions to the professional game.
Despite a failed attempt at earning her LPGA Tour card a month ago, Pilgrim feels confident of a solid career on Tour.
“I’m certainly not complacent, I know what I have to do this week,” said Pilgrim, the former Welsh Champion.
“I’d been on the amateur scene for ten years and I think I have served my apprenticeship and staying there wasn’t doing me any good at all.
“This week I am totally focussed on getting my card and if I can play my normal game and not think about the outcome too much, it should be enough for me to start my new career.”
While Britain has a strong presence here this week, the continental contingent is also strong with Martina Eberl from Germany and Spain’s Marta Prieto pick of the bunch.
Eberl, the 2001 European amateur champion, is totally focussed on the job at hand and after playing in the World team championships in Malaysia two weeks ago, is well prepared for a gruelling week here.
“I have one goal in mind and that is to make the top 30 places,” said Eberl, a diminutive 21-year-old from Bavaria.
“It’s going to be tough this week, there is a lot of pressure on everyone but I am strong mentally, I’m a fighter and I never give up.”
The field will be cut to the top 90 players and those tied after two rounds, with a further cut to the top 50 and ties after Friday’s third round. Saturday’s final round will determine the top 30 category seven fully exempt players and the 20 remaining players will each receive a category 10 conditional card.