(Helsinki, Finland – 26th August 2009) — The Ladies European Tour moves to Finland this week for the Finnair Masters from Friday 28th – Sunday 30th August.
A field of 108 players, including seven amateurs, will play in the fifth edition of the 54-hole, €200,000 event at the par-71 Helsinki Golf Club.
Last year, Finland’s very own Minea Blomqvist and Ursula Wikstrom, who began the last day tied for the lead with Italian Diana Luna, delighted the home galleries with a mouthwatering final round battle at Helsinki Golf Club, also known as “Tali”.
The Finns treated fans to a sparkling display of golf, Blomqvist eventually defeating Wikstrom by a one stroke margin at 11-under-par. Blomqvist edged Wikstrom with a final hole birdie for a last round of six-under-par 65. In so doing she claimed her second victory on the Ladies European Tour and her first since the 2004 OTP Bank Central European Open in Hungary, which she won as a 19-year-old rookie.
This week the 24-year-old Finn returns home from the United States aiming for a successful title defence. She is one of 10 Finnish players in the field, along with Wikstrom, Riikka Hakkarainen, who is making a comeback year after illness, Jenni Kuosa, Anna-Karin Salmen, Hanna-Leena Salonen, Jutta Degerman, Anne Hakula, Sohvi Harkonen and Sanna Nuutinen, who was second at the Finnish Amateur Championship at Helsinki Golf Club in early August.
Joining Nuutinen as amateurs in the field are six Asian players, the first four of which listed here were invited by the title sponsor, Finnair. They are South Korean Je-Yoon Yang, Si Min Feng from China, Gauri Monga from India, Japan’s Kotono Kozuma and sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn from Thailand, who were popular participants in the tournament last year.
Ariya, known as “May”, who is now 13, finished equal 28th at the 2008 Finnair Masters as a 12-year-old amateur, while her older sister Moriya, who is aged 15 and known as “Mo”, missed the cut by two strokes. Ariya was the youngest player to compete in an LPGA tournament when she qualified for the 2007 Honda LPGA Thailand at 11 years, 11 months and 2 days. Last month she reached the last eight in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Match Play tournament at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.
Moriya, who speaks a little English, said that the sisters have improved their mental attitude since last year’s Finnish tournament. “Our attitude to the game has become more relaxed,” she said. The sisters’ tournament schedule remains busy but they study their school work for at least four hours a day, accompanied by their parents and a journalist from the Thai Ministry of Education.
Leading the way for the professionals will be Becky Brewerton of Wales, who starred at last week’s Solheim Cup, earning two points for Team Europe. Brewerton finished equal seventh at the 2008 Finnair Masters but enters this year’s tournament in a rich vein of form, in fifth position on the LET’s Henderson Money List, having won the recent Open de Espana Femenino.
Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord, the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open champion ranked fourth in Europe, returns revitalized after a two week break from competitive action.
They are joined by two more of this year’s tournament winners: Jade Schaeffer, the HyproVereinsbank Ladies German Open winner and Sweden’s Johanna Westerberg, the Portugal Ladies Open winner ranked eighth and 10th on the Henderson Money List respectively. All the action kicks off with the first round at 8.30am on Friday.