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Karen Stupples fired up for Ladies English Open

The reigning Weetabix Women's British Open Champion Karen Stupples, from England , admitted she is in fine form heading into this week's €165,000 Ladies English Open (LEO).

The 32-year-old, who hails from Deal in Kent , is warming up just in time for her first European outing of the season at Chart Hills GC in Kent , which starts tomorrow.

"I feel like I'm in great form at the moment. I've made some swing changes, some club changes and I'm really settling into it.

"It feels great to be back in Britain , knowing that you're family, friends and the whole country is behind you. It's nice to be in familiar surroundings.

"It comes at a great time. I'm going to play in the Evian Masters, the British Open, Sweden and Wales .

"Being at home I can watch the men's British Open on TV from morning till night, so it's great for my schedule," she admitted.

Stupples will defend her British Open title in three weeks time, when it takes place at Royal Birkdale GC, from July 28-31. Last year, she finished in tied third position at the Ladies English Open, when it was re-introduced to the Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour schedule three weeks before her British Open victory at Sunningdale.

"I'd give my game about seven out of ten at the moment, which is about the same as I would have given it this time last year, which is encouraging" she said.

"In my last four tournaments, I've stood on the last green and thought 'how in the world did I not shoot a better score. I feel like I'm on the verge of playing exceptionally well but its frustrating. After coming tenth at the US Open, I really feel like the good result is tangible and I know I can do it."

As well as the chance to add another victory to her ever increasing resume, this week's Ladies English Open provides another exciting prospect for Stupples; an opportunity to accumulate coveted Solheim Cup points.

Should she qualify this year, either automatically or through the European team Captain Catrin Nilsmark's selection, she would make her debut in the biennial transatlantic event, which takes place from 9-11 September at Crooked Stick G&CC, Indiana.

It would clearly be a dream for Stupples, who said: "It's something that I never thought I'd play in because I didn't think I'd be good enough. I saw myself as a plodder, plodding along through the tournaments and just thinking 'hopefully I'll be able to make a good living playing golf'.

"Two years ago I was at the British Open and they asked me if I was eligible for The Solheim Cup. I said no, but it got me thinking that I was maybe good enough.

"I think you have to be ready for it. Now I feel ready to be put in that pressure cooker and I'm really looking forward to the tests and challenges that lie ahead.

"I really want to play - I really want it. I've watched it so much on the television and I think we could have a fantastic team. We've got a great chance with so many good European players who are used to playing in the States.

"We can play the fast greens; we can play in the tough rough, so I don't think the Americans will have a home advantage. They'll be a lot of European fans and if I go, Europe will have a lot of American fans too."

Stupples will be joined by a host of luminaries at this week's Ladies English Open, including former Solheim Cup star, Women's World Cup of Golf partner and home favourite Laura Davies from England, who last won the event in 1996, before it was re-launched onto the LET schedule last season.

Davies won the title four times between 1992 and 1996 and her last victory was at the 2004 AAMI Women's Australian Open.  With at least one victory in each year of her twenty-years as a professional she will be hoping to keep up that record this week as she competes for her national title.

Catriona Matthew, from North Berwick in Scotland will also be a strong contender after three tied third place finishes on the LPGA Tour so far this season. Matthew makes her first appearance on the LET schedule since competing in the Women's World Cup of Golf at Fancourt G&CC in South Africa in February, where she finished fourth alongside playing partner Janice Moodie.

Like Matthew, Moodie, from Glasgow , will be aiming for her third Solheim Cup appearance and will prove a strong challenger this week on Nick Faldo's layout.

Patricia Meunier Lebouc, Iben Tinning, Elisabeth Esterl, Ana Belen Sanchez and the defending champion Maria Hjorth, from Sweden , will also provide a stern challenge.

The LET Money list leader Veronica Zorzi from Italy is also in the field and can't be ruled out after her maiden victory at the Arras Open de France Dames three weeks ago.

Tinning, who is currently second in The Solheim Cup ranking, behind Sweden 's Annika Sorenstam, will be looking to consolidate her position. With two victories already this year, at the Open de Espana Femenino and the BMW Ladies Italian Open, she is always one to watch.


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