The Ladies European Tour has returned to Thailand this week for the inaugural Ladies European Thailand Championship, which will take place at Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club in Pattaya from Thursday.

This is the LET’s first visit to the country in 12 years, following the 2005 Thailand Ladies Open in Bangkok. A field of 126 female golfers, including 70 LET members, 40 Thai LPGA members and 16 invited players, will compete for a purse of 300,000 euros.

Local players will have the opportunity to test themselves at the international level, following in the footsteps of Thai stars such as Ariya Jutanugarn, Nontaya Srisawang and Supamas Sangchan.

Titiya Plucksataporn, (pictured below, centre), who joined the LET in 2006 after playing in the Thailand Ladies Open as an amateur, believes that the tournament will contribute to the development of the game.

She said: “The Thai players are really excited to have a big tournament in Thailand and we hope that it will continue for at least the next two years. This event is a great opportunity for us to show the beautiful golf courses and facilities that we have. It will also encourage the current players who are progressing in their games to develop their skills and to see how far their talents can take them.”

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Fellow Thai player Prima Thammaraks, who earned her first professional win at the ALPG Tour’s RACV Gold Coast Challenge earlier this year, is also delighted to have the opportunity to play on home soil.

The 25-year-old from Bangkok said: “I’m very excited to play with the other international players here in Pattaya. It’s a good opportunity for us to see where we are against the rest of the world and amongst the top women golfers from Europe. Since my win, I haven’t been playing that well. Although I could have played in a tournament on the LPGA this week, I chose to come home, work on my swing and play here, so it worked out really well. I made my pro debut at this course in 2014 and missed the cut, so I hope to redeem myself!”

Three-time Thai LPGA tournament winner Pajaree Anannarukarn, 18, from Bangkok, is looking forward to mixing with the players from 28 countries in the field. She said: “To have a co-sanctioned tournament with the LET is excellent, because a lot of Thai players want to have the chance to play with the international professionals and get to know them.”

Budsabakorn Sukapan, who posted two wins on the China LPGA Tour in 2015, is also thrilled about the prospect. The 20-year-old from Chaingrai said: “I’m so excited to have the chance to play with the top LET players. This is my first time at this golf course so I am just thinking positively and enjoying the chance to play at home.”

Chalisa Limpipolpaibul, a 22-year-old rookie from Changmai, added: “I’m so excited to play in this tournament, because I usually play in Japan and this is the first time I will play with people from Europe. It’s fun to learn about the cultures and playing styles. I want to go to Europe!”

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The top Ladies European Tour stars in the field are also looking forward to the challenge and Florentyna Parker, who recently claimed her third title at the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open in Spain, said: “I think it’s always important to play international golf and on the LET we travel the world and play with other tours. This week it’s with the Thai LPGA and I think they have some great players so it will be a stern test. It’s always nice having a new tournament.”

Anne Van Dam, who claimed her first title at last year’s Xiamen International Ladies Open in China, commented: “I think it’s always great to play together with other tours and on different continents to see the level and play on different varieties of grass.”

Meanwhile, Nuria Iturrios, the winner of the 2016 Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco, said: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to experience a Thai golf course and it will be very warm, so we will need to drink a lot of water! I’m looking forward to competing with the local players and learning more about the culture.”

The Ladies European Thailand Championship is supported by the Sports Authority of Thailand and will be played at Phoenix Gold Golf & Country Club, the host venue for last year’s King’s Cup on the men’s Thai, Asian and European Tours.