Three Contest Italian Open
Lee-Anne Pace is the first of three South African women to tee off at the €400,000 BMW Ladies Italian Open, starting today at the Sheraton Parco de Medici, in Rome, Italy.
Pace tees off with the first three-some from the 10th tee, alongside France’s Jade Schaeffer and Italian amateur Marianna Causin.
Laurette Maritz following 4 groupings later, with Denmark’s Rikke Rasmussen and Spanish talent Tania Elosequi.
Stacey Lee Bregman is the third South African out, heading off with French Cassandra Kirkland and Austria’s Stefanie Michl.
Two weekends ago Maritz trailed a blaze as she scorched to an overall fifth place at the Spanish Women’s Open, but the form didn’t continue at the Swiss Ladies Open last week.
The Spanish Open was also Bregman’s best finish of the season, where an 38th-equal place earned her a few Euros, but she will be hoping to improve on the other three tournaments of the season, where she failed to progress past the half-way mark.
South Africa’s most recent professional Ashleigh Simon is not participating in this tournament, since finishing in the same group with Bregman and Maritz at last weekend’s Swiss event.
Defending champion Gwladys Nocera’s hopes for her second Ladies European Tour title, as she returns to Sheraton Parco de Medici in Rome for the €400,000 BMW Ladies Italian Open.
The tournament takes place from Wednesday 23rd – Saturday 26th May at the same venue as in 2005 and 2006.
Nocera posted three wins in 2006; but found it hard to cope with the pressure of defending for the first time at the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open last week. She was disappointed with her first three rounds but a 66 on Sunday gave her the perfect confidence boost for the week ahead.
“I understand what happened and I learned from it,” said Nocera, the favourite to take the Italian title with odds of 11/1.
“I learned that the past is the past and that you have to stay in the present. Just because you won once, doesn’t mean you’re going to do it again. To win a tournament takes a lot of courage and good shots. This week, I will put all of my heart into each shot.”
Last week’s winner Bettina Hauert of Germany and runners up Paula Marti of Spain and Australia’s Anna Rawson are all in the Italian field, along with Australia’s Nikki Garrett, who won the recent Tenerife and Spanish Opens.
Hauert, who rose to the top of the New Star Money List after her four-hole play-off victory, found time to celebrate her achievements during a five-hour visit to Germany on Monday.
Having flown in to Italy on Monday evening, she said: “This is a new week and I’m going to try my best to get into the flow again. I’m at the top of the New Star Money List and in the top five on the European Solheim Cup standings and I’m going to try my best to stay there.”
Marti, the 2002 Ladies European Tour order of merit winner, won the Italian Open title six years ago in 2001, when she also won the Ladies’ British Masters.
She is the second favourite at odds of 14/1, having narrowly missed out in a four-hole play-off last week. She aims to earn her first title in six years and is also hoping to earn enough points to make her second appearance as a member of The European Solheim Cup Team.
Italian favourites Veronica Zorzi, the two-time French Open champion, Diana Luna, the 2004 Tenerife Ladies Open Champion, Federica Piovano, the 2005 Austrian Open champion, and Sophie Sandolo are also in the field and hoping to perform well on home territory.
Meanwhile, the two-time tournament champion Iben Tinning, who won the title in 2002 and 2005, also makes an appearance, along with the 2004 winner Ana Belen Sanchez and the 2003 champion Ludivine Kreutz of France.
England’s Rebecca Hudson leads the British charge with odds of 20/1, although Trish Johnson and Becky Brewerton of Wales are also in the running.
Hudson finished second in the Spanish Open a fortnight ago and has since recovered from a niggling neck injury that hampered her progress last week in Switzerland, where she missed the cut. She said: “I had the weekend off so I thought I’d better do some work.
“I missed out hugely last week and I was very disappointed so I’m looking to make a bit of an amends. I’m not playing great but I’m playing okay. My swing has got a few faults but if I can sort them out over the next 24 hours I think I’ll do okay and I’ll have a chance.”
The BMW Ladies Italian Open is proudly supporting the Ladies European Tour’s official charity, World Childhood, to which players will have the opportunity to donate a percentage of their earnings.