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Luna at home in Rome for Italian Open

The Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour makes it fourth Tour stop on European soil in 2004 for this week's € 275,000 BMW Ladies Italian Open, which starts Thursday at Parco di Roma GC on the outskirts of the Italian capital.

So far this year, there have been three first time winners on the LET including last week's Spanish Open winner Stephanie Arricau from France, Cecilia Ekelundh from Sweden, who won the Ladies Open of Portugal and of course a thrilling victory for Italian Diana Luna in Tenerife.

Luna, whose home is just a five minute drive away from the course, starts the event as the favourite in the eyes of her many admiring compatriots as she aims to become the first Italian to win her national title.

The 21-year-old ' Romana ' had the company of Federica Dassu on caddying duties en-route to victory in the Canary Islands and this week, Dassu, a veteran of six Tour victories in 19-years on the LET, is back this week alongside her young protégé, albeit in a coaching role.

"It's very nice to have Federica here again," said Luna. "I can work on a few things with her and it's definitely better than having coaching on the phone like we normally do.

"Winning my first title was fantastic and naturally, there has been a lot of interest about me here , which is normal I think. But I don't feel any extra pressure in being at home.

"There is more emotion this week and it's comfortable to be home again. I'm not expecting anything really, but I'll certainly be doing my best.

"I know the course quite well as I've played here about 15 times and it's in fabulous condition. It's a very long course and very hilly, very tiring, but the greens are superb. The balls rolls beautifully on them, but they are very difficult."

The Ladies Italian Open has a habit of throwing up first time winners on Tour with Spain's Paula Marti wining her maiden title at this event in 2001 and Ludivine Kreutz from France winning last year in Tuscany. And with good performances from some of the Tour rookies so far this season, there is every chance that one of them may snatch the € 41,250 first prize, and with it a three year exemption.

Kreutz admitted to having a poor year after winning at Poggio dei Medici last season and so far this year she has only made two cuts from five starts, with her best finish tied for 24 th place in Portugal.

"I'm not playing the golf I know I can play," said Kreutz, who as defending champion begins the event at 66-1 odds to retain her title.

"I want to play well again and I know I can compete at the top level. After a good season last year, it's a bit disappointing. It was fantastic last year, it was just magic!"

And one player this year who is certainly showing plenty of magic and signs of an imminent victory is Becky Brewerton from Wales, who last week notched up her fourth top three since playing on the LET.

The 21-year-old from Abergele finished second two times as an amateur in 2003 and so far in 2004, her rookie year, she has finished second in Tenerife behind Luna and in third place behind Arricau last week.

As is intimated by Brewerton's pre-tournament odds of 10-1, making her joint favourite alongside Elisabeth Esterl from Germany, victory, according to the cognoscenti, is a matter of when and not if.


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