There has not been a dull moment on the 2009 Ladies European Tour to date. From the minute Swede Anna Nordqvist won the LET’s tour school at Spain’s La Manga in January to Diana Luna’s triumph at the SAS Ladies Masters in Norway last week, it has already been an action packed year.
Nordqvist had announced her arrival on the professional stage by finishing as the leading amateur at both the 2008 Ricoh Women’s British Open and Scandinavian TPC hosted by Annika, but her talent was clear for all to see at tour school, when she won by a three shot margin.
She was one of three top LET rookies offered a sponsorship courtesy of Henderson Asset Management, the financial company which sponsors the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List.
After finishing ninth at the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, where she was chosen as the tournament’s “Green” ambassador, she went on to claim her first professional victory at the McDonalds LPGA Championship, which is a major. She now looks highly likely to make her Solheim Cup debut, as a rookie.
The Henderson rookies have performed exceptionally well this year. Along with Nordqvist’s huge achievement, Christel Boeljon steered the Netherlands team to a four stroke victory at the Comunitat Valenciana European Nations Cup at La Sella in Spain in April. Meanwhile Scotland’s Krystle Caithness has also started her career strongly with a fifth place finish at the AIB Ladies Irish Open supported by Failte Ireland.
The season proper started in Australia in February, where 26-year-old Katherine Hull won the ANZ Ladies Masters on home soil at Royal Pines Resort and was hailed as the natural successor to her compatriot Karrie Webb.
England’s Laura Davies, 45, clinched the Women’s Australian Open at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne the next week, after Spaniard Tania Elosegui double bogeyed the last hole.
|Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord|
After Australia, the tour moved back to Europe for the second edition of the Comunitat Valenciana European Nations Cup, a 20-nation team competition, won by 21-year-old Boeljon and Marjet van der Graaff, 26. The tour then welcomed four first time winners in a row.
Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord, 23, triumphed at the €525,000 Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, holding off the challenge of Melissa Reid from England, which brought extra sizzle to Golf Gerre Losone.
The second first time winner was Frenchwoman Jade Schaeffer, 22, who defeated Spaniard Paula Marti at the first playoff hole in Germany. Schaeffer holed a one metre putt on the par-five 18th hole in front of huge galleries to seal the HypoVereinsbank Ladies German Open in Munich.
|France’s Jade Schaeffer|
Having come close on several occasions, 27-year-old Tania Elosegui finally struck with a one stroke victory in the Netherlands. The win at Eindhovensche Golf put her in contention for a 2009 Solheim Cup debut.
Next up was the Open de Portugal, and the extraordinary maiden triumph of 31-year-old Swede Johanna Westerberg at Golden Eagle. She kept her best for last, holing a stunning bunker shot for birdie to deny Elosegui at the first extra hole in a playoff. Westerberg, who had her fiancé, tennis champion Joachim Johanssen on her bag, came from five shots back entering the final round, which made winning even sweeter for the seventh year tour player.
Diana Luna, the glamorous 26-year-old Italian, claimed her second LET victory at the AIB Ladies Irish Open supported by Failte Ireland. The sparkling seaside links was bathed in sunshine for two days before fog punctuated the third and final round. Luna held on to her overnight lead to record a four shot victory at Portmarnock Links near Dublin. She went on to win her second victory inside seven days at the SAS Ladies Masters at Larvik Golfklubb in Norway, which finished on a Saturday.
|Spaniard Tania Elosegui|
Excluding Luna’s back-to-back victories, all eight wins on the tour so far had been recorded by players with different nationalities, with an average age of 28, demonstrating the increasingly high standard of play from players coming up through the ranks this year.
All eyes are now on The 2009 Solheim Cup, with the final event for qualification the Ricoh Women’s British Open, where the US and European teams will be announced following the conclusion of the final round on 2nd August.
The Solheim Cup, from August 21-23 at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois, America, will be the highlight of the summer and Nicholas’ 12-woman team will be chasing their first win on US soil.
Last year’s European No.1 Gwladys Nocera continues to lead the top five from the LET standings followed by Elosegui, Davies, Martina Eberl and now Luna.
Anna Norqvist will need a pick from European Captain Alison Nicholas if she is to play, since despite her lofty position on the Rolex World Rankings, she will only have played in three qualifying LET events at the cut off date, namely the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, the Evian Masters in Evian, France and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
|Swede Johanna Westerberg|
With three European events left in which players can earn Cup points, including next week’s Open de Espana Femenino at Panoramica Golf and Country Club, the stage is set for a thrilling team count-down.
With points doubled and awarded to top 20 places at Evian and the British, the stakes will be higher for those looking to qualify.
Immediately after the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the S4/C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe at Royal St David’s Golf Club, from August 6-9, will give players the opportunity to compete at another world class links course. So much excitement and the season is not even half way through! Keep watching for the best golfing action from the Ladies European Tour.
|Italian Diana Luna|