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LET make debut in Asia

Australia's Alison Munt will be looking to continue her strong start to the season when the Evian Ladies European Tour makes it's Asian debut today in the Taiwan Ladies Open at Ta Shee GCC on the outskirts of Taipei.

Munt, a late developer in women's golf, will start as one of the favourites in a field that also includes two European Solheim Cup players and no fewer than eight Tour champions.

Last year Munt posted two victories on the Evian Tour and has carried her form into the first two events of the 2001 season.

The 35-year-old from Cairns finished joint seventh in the ANZ Ladies Masters, the opening event on the 2001 schedule, and tied for fifth last week in the AAMI Women's Australian Open in Melbourne, where she topped the leaderboard at the halfway mark.

"I'm reasonably happy with my start to the season, though I was a little disappointed I didn't continue to do well last week," said Munt, whose pair of 65's in the first two rounds eclipsed some of the world's leading players, including number one Karrie Webb.

"It was a great experience to be leading with so many top players in the field, but I got tired at the weekend and this led to a few technical breakdowns.

"I've been working on a number of changes to my swing and when I get tired I revert to all my old ways. I have a month after our South African event next week and I'll be putting together a fitness programme to help counter this."

Despite dropping back at the weekend, Munt maintains that she will have learnt from the experience of leading her own national open. "I didn't feel intimidated, but I suppose my mind was a little outside the ropes at times," added Munt, the winner of the Hannover and Marrakech Opens on last season's Evian Tour.

"If I could chose to win one event it would be the Australian Open, and because I was leading at the weekend it has helped me to put certain things into perspective.

"Next time I'll know how better to deal with the crowds, everybody talking, how to ignore the cameras. But I loved the experience and the challenge."

Munt also believes the leading Taiwanese players will certainly be in contention going into Saturday's final round.

"I've been coming to Taiwan for a number of years now and I know that the local players will there or there about come Saturday - they're very strong playing at home," explained Munt.

"This is certainly the best course I've ever played on in Taiwan, and I think it will come down to whoever places their ball best on these greens - the Taiwanese will be hard to beat because of this knowledge.

"The greens are very undulating with a lot of grain that we don't often see in Europe. You don't want to be down grain with a long downhill putt as it will just keep on rolling. It's all about placement this week - that'll be
the key."

As for her targets this season, Munt just hopes to continue putting herself into contention at the weekend.

"In 2000 I got into contention and it opened my eyes," continued Munt. "I want more of that this season. I also hope to play against more of the strong fields. I've got a start in the Evian Masters and the Weetabix (Women's British Open) and hopefully I can get into the US Open.

"That's the logical next step for me. I've got to prove that to myself. I suppose I've hit the traps late in my career and I now want to make the most of however many seasons I've got left in me."

Other players who are likely to be in contention at this week are Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, who last year became the first French player to make the European Solheim Cup team, and Spain's Raquel Carriedo.

The 28-year-old Lebouc was also a two-time winner in Europe last year, at the Ladies French and Austrian Opens, and has been in the top-10 in the first two events of this season.

With her husband Antoine, a former Challenge Tour player, carrying her bag she finished tied 10th in the ANZ Ladies Masters and joint 8th in the AAMI Women's Australian Open.

Joining Lebouc at Ta Shee GCC, venue for last year's Johnnie Walker Classic, is her Solheim team-mate Carriedo, who like Lebouc became the first player to represent her country in this biennial matchplay.

Carriedo has finished runner-up more times than she cares to remember and will be focusing on posting her maiden professional victory this season.

Other Tour champions in the field this week are England's Lora Fairclough, Lynette Brooky of New Zealand, the halfway leader of the ANZ Masters two weeks ago, Belgium's Valerie Van Ryckeghem, and Australians Karen Lunn, Anne-Marie Knight and Loraine Lambert.

Lunn has seven European victories to her name, including the 1993 Weetabix Women's British Open, and having lost her LPGA card last season will be focusing on the 2001 Evian Tour.

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