Two best buddies will team up for Ireland at the Comunitat Valenciana European Nations Cup next week. Good friends Hazel Kavanagh and Rebecca Coakley, Ireland’s top two female professional golfers, will tee up together for the first time since the 2007 Women’s World Cup of Golf and they are thoroughly looking forward to it.
For 28-year-old Coakley from Carlow, who finished 34th on the LET’s 2009 Henderson Money List, team golf is always a thrill and she said: “I’m really looking forward to playing. It’s great to play as a team because this is something that doesn’t happen much in professional golf.
“I have known Hazel for a good few years and she is a good friend. I think our games are going to be well suited. I rate our chances as good as any other team competing.”
Kavanagh soared from 151st on the 2008 Henderson Money List to 45th in Europe during the 2009 season, when she recorded a career best tie for third at the UNIQA Ladies Golf Open in Austria.
The 37-year-old Dubliner, who turned professional relatively late in her career at the end of 2001, explained why she was looking forward to playing for the first time at La Sella Resort in Dénia, Alicante: “I cannot wait for it to start. I really miss team golf since turning pro and it was a goal for me last year to make the team. So since I was confirmed to play from the order of merit last year it has been a great build up.
“I know Rebecca very well and we are great friends, which is a huge advantage in a week where we work as a team. I played with Rebecca in the World Cup in South Africa and we got on great there so it will be great working together from even the practise rounds, to the pro am and then teeing it up for four days. I know Rebecca’s game very well. We play quite a lot of practise rounds during the year anyway so I think because we get on well and are very comfortable with each other; it is a huge advantage for the week.”
Ireland may be slight underdogs in the competition, with Coakley and Martina Gillen having finished tied for 10th and 13th in the competition in 2009 and 2008 respectively, however Kavanagh added: “I really believe we can win.”
The 1995 European Vagliano Team member continued: “I feel great and have worked on my fitness over the winter. I went down to Australia for a month to get some tournament practise with cards in my hand and since then I have changed the shafts in my irons, since the new groove rule, so with the new irons for the Nations Cup I feel very confident.”
With the next Solheim Cup taking place at Killeen Castle in Ireland next year, from 23-25 September, all eyes will be on the Irish duo over the next two years as they attempt to qualify for the European team due to face the Americans. There is no doubt that both Coakley and Kavanagh are hugely motivated, both for The Solheim and Comunitat Valenciana European Nations Cup.
“I love playing in a team event. It’s great to be able to represent your country as a team and it makes for exciting golf,” said Coakley. Meanwhile Kavanagh continued: ““I absolutely thrive on team golf. I still even miss playing for my home club Grange in teams, as well as Ireland. I am very patriotic so to be teeing it up for Ireland with such a great field is fantastic.”
Despite having not yet played in the tournament, she said that she expected to find some Irish support in the Spanish galleries.
“Last year in Austria on the Sunday there were two men following me on the last round, and one of them came up to me when it was over and one was the Irish ambassador to Austria, so there is support no matter where we go,” she explained.
“I will bring passion to the Irish team, and both me and Rebecca will give it 100 per cent that week and we will have huge support from Ireland. No matter where we go in the world there is always someone in the crowd with an Irish accent wishing us well.”