The Ladies European Tour heads to Yalong Bay Golf Club in Hainan, China, this week for the Sanya Ladies Open, starting on Friday.
Defending champion Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa will be looking to replicate her form of last year when she fired a final round of 66 in hot and humid conditions to squeeze a stroke ahead of the second round leader Stefanie Michl in the 54-hole strokeplay event.
The tournament is tri-sanctioned with the Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT) and China Golf Association (CGA) and the field of 114 competitors, which include 55 entrants from the Ladies European Tour, will be pared down to 60 professionals and ties after the 36-hole cut.
Pace and Michl will be joined by four of this year’s LET winners in the field. England’s Melissa Reid will be hoping to become a three-time champion on tour this season after already claiming victories in the Deloitte Ladies Open and the Open de Espana. The Solheim Cup player will have mixed memories of 2010, when she was bitten by a mystery snake on the course before tying for 16th place in the tournament.
Also travelling to China having tasted victory this season is Englishwoman Felicity Johnson, winner at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France three weeks ago, South African Ashleigh Simon, who topped the leader board in May’s Portugal Ladies Open and Australian Kristie Smith, who claimed her maiden LET victory at the Pegasus New Zealand Women’s Open back in February.
England’s Laura Davies, who is playing in the event for the first time, will be looking for her first title of the 2011 season following her 12th Solheim Cup appearance in Ireland last month.
Becky Brewerton of Wales, who won the Tenerife Ladies Matchplay in June, which was an unofficial event on the LET schedule, will be looking to put the disappointment of missing out on a place at The Solheim Cup behind her with a strong performance in China.
Australian Nikki Garrett, Scotland’s Vikki Laing, Korea’s Jeehae Lee, England’s Florentyna Parker and Russamee Gulyanamitta of Thailand will all return to the venue after tying for fifth in the 2010 event.
After the Sanya Ladies Open, the LET will move towards the city of Suzhou on the eastern coast of China for the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club, where Pace will again defend the title she won in a four-way play-off against Hannah Jun, Julieta Granada and Christel Boeljon last year.
European Solheim Cup stars Boeljon and Caroline Hedwall will join the field, both looking to add multiple wins in 2011.
Boeljon claimed her maiden LET victory at the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open in May with a string of top-ten finishes, while Hedwall has three wins on the LET in her rookie season as a professional.
With only four events remaining, time is running out for Hedwall and Reid to make their move on the Henderson Money List leader Ai Miyazato and they will be looking to make up ground on the Japanese player in China.
At the other end of the spectrum, pressure will be mounting as several players vie to qualify for the 2012 Ladies European Tour season. To keep category five membership LET members need to be in the top 80 on the ranking once those players who have not competed in six events over the 2011 season have been removed from the list.