The Ladies European Tour campaign resumes this week after a one month break with the Lalla Meryem Cup at Golf du Soleil in Morocco, where Germany’s Anja Monke will defend her title.
Monke will hope to become the first player since England’s Johanna Head eight years ago to successfully defend, after finishing one stroke ahead of Carin Koch at Royal Anfa Mohammedia last year.
The Lalla Meryem Cup was inaugurated in 1993 but only joined the Ladies European Tour schedule for the first time in 2010, when The Trophée Hassan II was played during the same week at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.
For the first time in European golf history, this year, the international resort of Agadir will host both the Ladies European Tour and men’s European Tour events in the same city in the same week.
The Trophée Hassan II, which retains its original ‘Alliance’ (Pro-Am) format for the first two rounds, will be played over two outstanding venues nearby, the unique Golf du Palais Royal and the superb new course at Golf de L’Ocean.
Monke will be hoping to repeat the success she enjoyed last year at Royal Anfa Mohammedia and said: “My memories of my last win in Morocco are still great. That win was so unexpected; it was my first event I played in last year.
“My preparation took place in the snow in Germany and it felt strange to hit from real grass in Morocco again. I really liked the golf course we played on last year. It was in amazing shape and I enjoyed it a lot. Of course, I remember the 16th hole of my final round very well. It was a par five, reachable in two. I hit a hybrid into the green and it was a kind of blind shot and I felt I hit it pretty good. When I reached the green I saw my ball about three feet by the hole. I made eagle and this hole secured my victory.”
The Association Trophée Hassan II, organiser of both the Trophée Hassan II and the Lalla Meryem Cup, is a non-profit sport association established on 2002. Its main purpose is to organise, in addition to the two major events, other competitions integrating international satellite Tours such as the EPD Tour and eGolf Tour.
Chaired by His Royal Highness the Prince Moulay Rachid, the Association contributes to the development of national golf and aims the promotion of the Kingdom of Morocco as a premium golf destination.
“To receive the trophy from the Royal Family was a very special experience, to walk up the stage over the red carpet and then facing the Prince and his sister. I was not sure whether to drop a curtsy and I never practised one before, but I gave it a try,” Monke continued. “I did meet the Prince the night before for a dinner already and we had a very nice conversation. The hospitality in Morocco was very friendly, open minded and very welcoming. I really enjoyed my time last year and I did try many Moroccan flavours and dishes. The spices are different and very tasty in my opinion.”
Monke will have to contend with the LET’s most recent new champion, 22-year-old Australian Kristie Smith, who has made the journey over to Morocco from her training base in Florida. Smith claimed her maiden LET victory, at the Pegasus New Zealand Women’s Open, a month ago and is ranked second behind Melissa Reid on the 2011 Henderson Money List.
With Reid at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Smith will be looking to overhaul her at the top of the rankings this week and with a first prize of €48,750, Sweden’s Linda Wessberg and a host of other players will also be in the hunt for the top spot.
Five of last year’s event champions, Trish Johnson, Becky Brewerton, Florentyna Parker, Karen Lunn and Virginie Lagoutte-Clement, who was third at the 2010 event, will all be looking to ignite their 2011 seasons after warming up in Australia and New Zealand.