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LET returns with Tenerife Ladies Open

The 2007 Ladies European Tour recommences with the €275,000 Tenerife Ladies Open from 3-6 May this week after an 11-week hiatus.

The sixth staging of the tournament takes place at Golf del Sur on the Spanish Canary Island almost three months after Karrie Webb’s victories at the beginning of February in the MFS Women’s Australian Open and the ANZ Ladies Masters.

Finland’s Riikka Hakkarainen aims to defend the title after her maiden victory at Abama Golf Club 12 months ago. The 29-year-old Finn from Espoo won the tournament by two shots from Spain’s Tania Elosegui.

Since her victory, Hakkarainen has recovered from a spell where she suffered dizziness as a result of a mild inner ear condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). It started during the 2006 Evian Masters in July and, after seeing several doctors, she found a specialist who diagnosed her three months later.

Although the condition is likely to remain with her for life, Hakkarainen is now able to control it by performing certain manoeuvres and she feels ready to win again on tour with her ultimate aim to make The 2007 European Solheim Cup team.

“I would love to be in the team! It is a matter of playing good golf and then you are there!” she said. “My main goal is to play well. My ranking is only going to get better by working hard. It would be nice though if the ranking would go up just by staring at it!”

The LET previously visited Golf del Sur for the first Tenerife Ladies Open in 2002 when Spain’s Raquel Carriedo triumphed with a winning score of four-over-par 292 in windy conditions. This time another Spaniard will be one of the favourites: the current no.1 on the New Star Money List, Paula Marti.

The 27-year-old from Barcelona, who topped the European ranking in 2002, finished tied for third in February’s MFS Women’s Australian Open and joint 18th in the ANZ Ladies Masters, with combined earnings of €26,024.40 from the two tournaments.

She leads the New Star Money List by €2,621.77 from Finland’s Minea Blomqvist, while Scotland’s Clare Queen, Wales’ Becky Brewerton and Spain’s Marta Prieto complete the top five places respectively.

Marti plans to play in Europe this year and will travel with her baby son Izan, who was born on 2nd July 2006 and with her mother or her mother-in-law and partner Ivan.

She said: “I want to regain confidence, be at the top of the ranking and get into The Solheim Cup team once again.” (Marti was a member of the European Solheim Cup Team, when the event was played at Interlachen G&CC, Minnesota, USA, in 2002).

“After a year of not competing I didn’t imagine I would be first on the ranking but I’m not surprised either. The season has just started; two good places and I’m at the top. The truth is that really motivates me. It means having good schedules and playing with the best. If at the end of the season I finish first, perhaps that would surprise me, especially because of how long I’ve been away from competition.”

Sweden’s Louise Stahle leads the race to become the Ryder Cup Wales Rookie of the Year in association with the Bill Johnson Trophy entering the European leg of the 2007 LET season. She is closely followed by New Zealander Sarah Nicholson, South Korea’s Amy Yang and Australia’s Kristie Newton. Yang won the ANZ Ladies Masters as a 16-year-old amateur last year in February but she only played in one tournament as a professional in 2006: the Dubai Ladies Masters at Emirates Golf Club. The LET has therefore deemed that she be given “rookie” status in 2007.

Yang is playing in the next four Ladies European Tour events before returning to her school studies at Robina High School on Australia’s Gold Coast, where she lives. She will play in the Tenerife Ladies Open, the Spanish Open, the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open and the BMW Ladies Italian Open, which could see her claim her second LET victory before her 18th birthday in July. She is currently tied for 25th place on the New Star Money List after two events, including the ANZ Ladies Masters where she missed the cut.

Looking ahead to The Solheim Cup at Halmstad Golfklubb in September, there are currently three nationalities that would qualify for the five automatic places on Helen Alfredsson’s European side if the team were already finalised. Nocera leads the pack ahead of England’s Laura Davies, Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam, Stephanie Arricau of France and Rebecca Hudson of England. The race for Solheim Cup points will come to a climax at the Wales Ladies Championship of Europe before the 12-player team is announced on the 21st August in Sweden.

May 2, 2007

 




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