From right: Klára Spilková and Carolina Vlicková from the Czech Republic, Emma Cabrera Bello from Spain and Maria Balikoeva from Russia after building barrels at the Pilsner Urquell brewery during the players’ welcome party.
Czech number one Klára Spilková will command the spotlight at this week’s Tipsport Golf Masters at Golf Park Pilsen in the Czech Republic where Melissa Reid and Carlota Ciganda are making a final push to qualify for next month’s European Solheim Cup team.
Top ranked Ladies European Tour player Melissa Reid tied for ninth place in last week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open lifting her into first place on the LET order of merit and fifth on the Solheim Cup points list, from which the top four will qualify on Sunday evening.
Reid needs to finish eighth or better to overtake Anna Nordqvist into fourth position, while Ciganda needs to finish at least second.
Reid won the tournament when it was played at the Albatross Golf Resort as the Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf Masters in 2012, the same venue where Jade Schaeffer won in 2011.
Another Frenchwoman, Julie Greciet, won last year’s tournament at Golf Park Pilsen by two shots, with a 54-hole total of 17 under par.
Greciet, 28, from Biarritz, hasn’t played for five months due to a persistent injury to her right wrist, but wanted to come back to the scene of her maiden victory.
Ann-Kathrin Lindner of Germany, who also won her first LET trophy at Golf Park Pilsen, in 2013, is another past champion in the field of 132 players, which includes 124 professionals and eight amateur competitors.
Spilková, ranked 29th on the LET order of merit, is one of 13 players from the Czech Republic teeing up and she has set herself the target of a top 15 finish this year.
Her best result in the tournament was 11th at Albatross Golf Resort in 2011, but 23rd at Golf Park Pilsen in 2013, when she shot three rounds of 69.
After a career best tie for fourth place at the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, which qualified her for the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry, she now has to adapt her game to suit the tight and rolling Pilsen fairways.
The 20-year-old from Prague said: “It’s difficult when you’re playing on such different courses every week. You need to be really focused on what you’re doing during your practice round. I came here and realised I need to put the ball very high so I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God,’ that was my Scottish shot. I need my European Czech Republic shot.”
Another player in the spotlight will be Amy Boulden, who was third at Golf Park Pilsen last year and tied for ninth place in the Ricoh Women’s British Open last week. A win here would surely boost her chances of a pick by Carin Koch, the European Solheim Cup Captain, ahead of the matches in Germany on 18th-20th September.
In addition to the returning Ladies European Tour members, many of the rookie professionals will also have played the course before in the Pilsen Golf Challenge on last year‘s LET Access Series.
In total, there are four of this year’s Ladies European Tour champions in the field, with Rebecca Artis (Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open), Beth Allen (ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters), Melissa Reid (Turkish Airlines Ladies Open) and Gwladys Nocera (Lalla Meryem Cup).
The fifth edition of the tournament will be played at Golf Park Pilsen for third year running on August 7-9, with a prize fund of €250,000 and a new sponsor: Czech betting company Tipsport Ltd., founded in 1991.
Mr. Lubomír Ježek, spokesman of Tipsport, commented: “This is the first time that we have supported golf in such a large sponsorship. We like projects like this, with Czech sportswomen involved, namely because of Klára Spilková, long-standing member of the Ladies European Tour. We also like the fact that golf returns under the Olympic rings.”
Tipsport will have a stand at the tournament purely for the use of the attending fans.