(Tytherington, February 5 2003) The Ladies European Tour (LET) today announced the 2003 Tour schedule and highlights a burgeoning and increasingly stable future for women’s European professional golf.
Thanks to increased global recognition and sponsorship in new European countries, the Tour has retained all of the existing events from 2002 and has confirmed three new additions to the schedule in perhaps the most difficult marketplace sport has known.
Moreover, the LET are close to securing two further events for the schedule, which, with a fair wind, would take the total to 19 events including The Solheim Cup in September, highlighting that European women’s golf is now buoyant in a marketplace where other Tours are struggling to keep the status quo.
“Prior to 2002, the Tour schedule, whilst improved, masked an unacceptably high turnover of events,” explained Ian Randell, chief executive of the Ladies European Tour.
“We consolidated our position last year, ensuring that the expectations of our existing tournament sponsors were met and we built a solid foundation for the Tour Schedule which will enable us to develop.
“The fruits of this are clear for all to see as for the first time this year’s schedule boasts all of the 2002 tournaments along with a number of new additions.”
The 2003 season tees off ‘Down under’ with the ANZ Masters on Australia’s Gold Coast from February 20-23, with an increased prizefund of Aus$800,000. The Tour then heads to Newcastle, near Sydney, for the AAMI Australian Open at Terrey Hills GC, where Karrie Webb defends her title.
The European swing begins in Tenerife from May 1-4 at a new venue, Golf Las Americas, the newest course on the largest of the Canary Islands.
Two weeks later, the Tour returns once again to the breathtaking vistas of Poggio dei Medici near Florence for the La Perla Italian Open from May 15-18, where Denmark’s Iben Tinning will defend the first of her two titles.
The following week the Tour returns to Portugal for the Portuguese Ladies Open, a tournament that has been elevated to full ranking status, before crossing the border into Spain for the Open de España Feminino, won last year by Karine Icher from France.
A fortnight later Tinning defends her second title at the Ladies Irish Open, one of the most popular Tour stops among the members. And from June 19-22, the historical town of Arras in Normandy will once again host the Arras Open de France Dames to round off the initial European swing.
From July 11-13, The A-best Taiwan Ladies Open makes a welcome return to the Tour schedule after a break of two years and will be played at the Westin Ta Shee resort near Taipei, where former European number one Raquel Carriedo won her first Tour title in 2001.
And the final six week countdown to The Solheim Cup in Sweden begins in earnest on July 23rd as the best players in the world converge on the picturesque banks of Lake Geneva the for the €2.1million Evian Masters, before heading to England for the highlight of the European season, the £1,050,000 Weetabix Women’s British Open.
With Solheim Cup points counting double during 2003, these two events will be a huge opportunity for LPGA based Europeans to move into the fray for a berth on Catrin Nilsmark’s European team in September.
Drottningholm GC in Stockholm will host the £325,000 Compaq Open the following week in Sweden before the Tour crosses into Norway for the £245,000 P4 Norwegian Masters at Lake Bogstad where Laura Davies will aim to retain her title.
And in what is likely to be a dramatic conclusion in the final qualifying event for Solheim Cup places, the unpredictable examination of links golf awaits at the magnificent Royal Porthcawl GC for the £400,000 Wales WPGA Championship of Europe.
With the European team confirmed, team members can acclimatise to Scandinavian surroundings with the addition of the Danish Masters – the return of an event in the land of Vikings after five years – played over Helsingør GC a week prior to crossing the Øresund for the transatlantic encounter between Europe and the USA.
After The Solheim Cup at Barsebäck G&CC, the final scheduled event to date will be the annual end of season Biarritz Ladies Classic from September 25-27 at Le Phare GC beside the Bay of Biscay where Sophie Gustafson beat Scotland’s Mhairi McKay in a playoff last October.
The total prizefund of the Tour is bordering on €8million and visits 12 countries, reflecting the increasing number of International members and the growth of the Ladies European Tour.
“We are definitely moving forward,” added Randell.
“We have worked tirelessly to improve the stability and increase the number of events on the Tour and we are delighted to be visiting so many countries this season.
“The good news is that we are likely to announce further events as the season progresses and we have already signed an event for Finland in 2004 to complete the ‘Nordic swing’ and will continue to develop relationships with other potential sponsors in the future.”