We set the scene as the Ladies European Tour heads to Morocco to resume play at the Lalla Meryem Cup.
Tournament action resumes on the LET next week, after a one month break, when the Lalla Meryem Cup gets underway at Golf du Soleil in Agadir, Morocco. Germany’s Anja Monke is defending the title she earned last year at Mohammédia and the event is featuring on the Ladies European Tour schedule for the second successive year. West Australian Kristie Smith, who captured the Pegasus New Zealand Women’s Open, hosted by Christchurch, will lead the star-studded field as she looks to make it two in a row and with England’s Melissa Reid playing at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Smith has a chance to seize pole position on the 2011 Henderson Money List, the official ranking on Tour.
A fortnight later the action continues at the European Nations Cup at La Sella Golf in Dénia, Alicante, Spain, from April 14-17. This year’s first LET event on European soil features a glittering line-up with Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Sophie Gustafson defending the title they won last year in a play-off. The 18-nation event has attracted Catriona Matthew, Laura Davies, Katherine Hull, Brittany Lincicome and Christina Kim.
The next event is the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, at National Golf Club in Belek, Antalya, from May 5-8, which will begin a seven week stretch of tournaments taking in Portugal, Germany, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Tenerife and Switzerland.
Henderson Money List leader Melissa Reid will defend in Turkey and will be looking to improve on her solid results of second, 15th and fourth at the ISPS Women’s Australian Open, ANZ RACV Ladies Masters and Pegasus Women’s New Zealand Open respectively.
Moving on to Portugal and Campo Real near Lisbon is preparing for a double dose of excitement as it hosts the Ladies’ Open for the second straight year, from May 13-15. Australian Karen Lunn will be targeting more of the same after earning her ninth LET title at the venue last June.
England’s most decorated player Laura Davies is likely to be in the mix again when she defends at the UniCredit Ladies Open presented by Audi, at Golfpark Gut Häusern near Munich from May 19-22. Spain’s Maria Hernandez will look to make it two in a row at the Ladies Slovak Open at Gray Bear Golf Club in Talé, from May 26-29.
On to the Netherlands and Florentyna Parker returns to Golfclub Broekpolder in Rotterdam for another tilt at the title she won last year. With a new title sponsor, the event has been renamed the Deloitte Ladies Open and will take place from June 3-5.
Although not an official event on the calendar, the Tenerife Ladies Open will be played at Golf de Las Americas from June 10-12 with an exciting new match play format. A total of 32 players, comprising the top 30 LET competitors and two invited players will contest round one on 10th June. The 16 players to win their matches will play round two on 11th June and the eight winning players will qualify for the final round of stroke play on 12th June. The winner will take home a first prize of €40,000 from a purse of €120,000.
Back on the mainland, Europe’s finest competitors will gather at the foothills of the Swiss Alps for the sixth edition of the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open: a player favourite on the schedule for several reasons.
Golf Gerre Losone, a premier golf facility, is much loved by the LET players and this is the third largest tournament on the schedule with a purse of €525,000. The title sponsor, Deutsche Bank, prides itself on corporate responsibility. The company is committed to protecting the environment and sees this as one of the greatest challenges of our time.
Last year, Lee-Anne Pace captured the first of her five titles at the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, starting a wonderful season which culminated with her winning the Henderson Money List. This event will attract fierce international competition and it will be intriguing to watch which players leapfrog each other throughout the season to earn one of the four automatic spots on The European Solheim Cup Team.
There promises to be an intriguing sub-plot as a big week for a player might be enough to nudge European Captain Alison Nicholas to ink their name on the Killeen Castle team sheet or lift them into one of the top four qualifying spots from the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
After a week’s breather, the action will continue at the Finnair Masters, being staged at Helsinki Golf for the seventh year, from June 30 – July 2. Lee-Anne Pace will plan to keep her grip on the title, but there has been a different winner each year which suggests that a new name may be etched onto the trophy. We then move on to the two biggest prize money events of the year.
The Evian Masters presented by Société Générale, featuring a prize fund of €2,437,500, has won several awards for its quality. An array of talent from all corners of the globe will gather at Evian Masters Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France, hoping to dethrone ‘Final Round Queen’ Jiyai Shin, who became a member of the Ladies European Tour after her victory in 2010.
There are more Solheim Cup points available both here and at the Ricoh Women’s British Open as both are designated Major Championships on the LET schedule. Rolex Rankings No.1 Yani Tseng of Chinese Taipei will hit the headlines when she defends the Ricoh Women’s British Open, being played for the first time at Carnoustie, from July 28-31. Tseng has already had a remarkable year, winning four tournaments worldwide at the start of the season, including two in Australia on the Ladies European Tour.
The Solheim Cup will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds when the Ladies Irish Open supported by Fáilte Ireland is played at Killeen Castle, The 2011 Solheim Cup venue, on August 5-7. Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson will be determined to retain the title following her six titles earned on Irish soil.
Competition on the domestic front will be high at the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open presented by EventScotland from August 18-20, with the news that the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion Catriona Matthew will participate, joining up and coming stars such as Vikki Laing, Krystle Caithness, Kylie Walker and Carly Booth among other international talents.
The following week’s UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen at Golfclub Förenwald in Wiener Neustadt from September 2-4 will see Laura Davies have another run at the title she has won three times already on a course that suits her well.
After a one week break, action resumes with the inaugural Prague Golf Masters at Prague City Golf Club from September 8-11. This is the first event in a four-week stretch taking in the Czech Republic, Spain, Ireland and France.
The Open de España Femenino will take place at a venue yet to be decided ahead of The Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in County Meath, Ireland, from September 23-25, when it will be time for the battle between the best 12 players from the United States and Europe.
The excitement will hop across to Paris International Golf Club for the Open de France Féminin, from September 29-October 2. England’s Trish Johnson will be hoping to make it two in a row and the odds look good as she also won at the venue in 1999.
After a fortnight’s break, the Tour heads to China for the Sanya Ladies Open at Yalong Bay Golf Club in Hainan from October 21-23 and the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club near Shanghai from October 28-30. Lee-Anne Pace will defend both titles after back-to-back victories last season.
Any battles for the Henderson Money List will be fought at the Hero Honda Women’s Indian Open at DLF Golf and Country Club in New Delhi from December 9-11. Then, the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters will be played at Emirates Golf Club in the U.A.E. for the sixth straight year from December 14-17. With Iben Tinning stepping away from competitive play after her 2010 victory, the door is open for a new champion to be crowned in the desert sunshine.
With superb venues and star-studded tournaments taking place in 19 different countries globally, 2011 promises to be quite a year.