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LET release strongest ever schedule for 2005

The Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour (LET) announced today that the 2005 Tournament schedule will be the strongest in its 25-year-history with a total prize fund approaching €9million in a calendar featuring 20 events.

Not since 1990 has the Tour witnessed a schedule of this depth and along with a €1.1 million increase in prize money - a 16 % improvement on 2004 - the LET will be expanding its global footprint in 2005 and will visit 17 different countries on four continents.

The Tour will also witness new events in South Africa, Singapore, Thailand and Finland and will also see the return to the schedule of tournaments in Norway, Denmark and Austria.

And in a groundbreaking new initiative, the Tour will welcome the Volvo Cross Country Challenge series, a dedicated order of merit for the tournaments played in the Nordic region.

In an initial three-year deal, Volvo will be the 'Official Car' to each of the four tournaments to be held in the Nordic Region. In addition to the individual prize funds on offer for each event, there will be a bonus pool which will be awarded to the player who heads the order of merit at the end of the Volvo Cross Country Challenge as well as awarding a car to the winner.

And a separate $1million bonus will be available for any player who wins all of the Volvo Cross Country Challenge tournaments in one season, with four events required to trigger this bonus.

" The Ladies European Tour is developing at a fast rate and this sea son we have the strongest International schedule for many years thanks to the hard work and unswerving dedication from an expert team of staff, all of whom have been instrumental in the development of our sport," said Karen Lunn, Chairman of the Ladies European Tour.

"We envisage that the growth and buoyancy shown at present will provide the catalyst for the LET to move on to bigger and better things and with many events this year showing significant increases in prize funds, along with having contracts secured for the long-term future, we are beginning to realise our goals."

The season begins from the 3-5 February with the $200,000 Singapore Ladies Masters at Laguna National Golf and Country Club, a week after the men's European Tour play at the same venue.

It will be the first time the LET has ventured into the South-east Asia region and the event will be co-sanctioned with the Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT) and the Korean Ladies Professional Golfers Association (KLPGA).

A week later in South Africa, 40 of the very best players in women's golf will contest the $1million Women's World Cup of Golf, played at the delightful Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate in George, South Africa.

Leading the field are some of the top stars of the sport such as major championship winners Laura Davies, Karen Stupples, Karrie Webb, Meg Mallon, Beth Daniel and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc.

The Tour moves on to Australia for its next event for the $Aus800,000 ANZ Ladies Masters on Queensland's Gold Coast from February 24-27 at Royal Pines GC.

From March 31 to April 3, the Tour will visit South-east Asia again as the $400,000 Thailand Ladies Open takes place at the magnificent Alpine Golf and Country Club in Bangkok before making a return to its home continent for the Tenerife Ladies Open from April 7-10 at Costa Adeje GC on the islands South-west coastline, where Diana Luna from Italy will defend her title.

From May 12-15, the Tour moves on to Spain for the Open de España Femenino at a venue to be announced in the near future before returning to Austria after a break of nearly five years when the title was won by Patricia Meunier-Lebouc of France.

This event takes place from May 26-29 at Golfclub Föhrenwald in Weiner Neustadt, home course of Austrian professional Tina Schneeberger.

Spain's Ana B. Sanchez will have the opportunity to defend her title at the BMW Ladies Italian Open from June 2-5 at the Sheraton Parco dei Medici in Rome before the Tour moves on to France for the Arras Open de France at in Anzin St. Aubin in the Pas de Calais region in the north of the country.

The Ladies English Open, won last season by Swede Maria Hjorth in record setting fashion at Chart Hills GC , is scheduled to take place from July 8-10 . The venue will be announced in due course and a top class field is expected at this popular event.

Once again, the Tour visits the former Eastern bloc in Hungary from July 14-16 where last year, Minea Blomqvist from Finland became the first rookie since 2001 to win in her maiden year with an outstanding victory at the OTP Bank Central European Open at Old Lake GC near Budapest.

From July 20-23, some of the very finest players in the world will gather again on the shores above Lake Geneva to contest the 11 th edition of the $2.5million Evian Masters where last season, Wendy Doolan from Australia won a thrilling event ahead of World number one Annika Sörenstam.

Karen Stupples from England will defend her first major championship title at the £1.05million Weetabix Women's British Open, which takes place from July 28-31 at Royal Birkdale GC near Southport, one of the finest links golf courses anywhere in the world.

From August 4-7, the Swedish Open returns to Vasatorp GC in Helsingborg where it is anticipated Sörenstam will defend the title she won in convincing fashion last year in Stockholm.

The Swedish Open will become the first ranking event for the Volvo Cross Country Challenge with three further Nordic events to come after the £350,000 Wales Ladies Championship of Europe which takes place from August 11-14 at the new Jack Nicklaus designed Machynys Peni n sula GC near Llanelli in Carmarthenshire in South Wales.

The second instalment of the Volvo Cross Country Challenge takes place from August 19-21 at the €200,000 Ladies Norwegian Masters at a venue to be announced soon. The tournament will also become the final qualifying event for European born players to earn enough points in which to secure a place in Europe's team for The Solheim Cup.

A week later, the Tour makes its first venture into Eastern Scandinavia for the €200,000 Ladies Finnish Masters, which takes place at Helsinki GC .

And rounding out the Volvo Cross Country Challenge is the inaugural €200,000 Nykredit Masters which will be played from Se ptember 1-4 at Kokkedal GC in H ø rsholm , on the outskirts of Copenhagen.

From September 9-11, the 12 players of 'Team Europe', captained by Swede Catrin Nilsmark will aim to make history for her continent as they head to Crooked Stick GC in Indianapolis for The Solheim Cup.

Europe, the defending champions after their record breaking win in Sweden in 2003, will aim to win the title on US soil for the first time but they will have to overcome all the odds and an expected strong team headed by the legendary Nancy Lopez.

The final event as the schedule stands at present will be the KLM Ladies Open in Holland which takes place from September 16-18 at a venue to be announced soon .

But the LET are confident of announcing more events in the early part of 2005, which will boost the playing opportunities for the members and possibly increase the total prize fund to over €10million for the first time in its history.


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