As last week’s Catalonia Ladies Masters champion Ashleigh Simon travels to America, Laurette Maritz, Lee-Anne Pace and Stacy Lee Bregman champion South Africa’s cause at this weekend’s Ladies European Toure event, the Vediorbis Ladies French Open, at Le Golf D’Arras.
In the same tournament, double-defending champion, Italy’s Veronica Zorzi aims to become the first player to win a Ladies European Tour event three years running.
The 26-year-old from Verona defeated England’s Laura Davies by a stroke last year to successfully defend the title that she won in 2005 at the same venue.
Previously, New Zealand’s Lynn Brooky won back-to-back French Open titles in 2002 and 2003, only to finish tied for tenth in her attempt to secure the elusive three-peat in 2004.
That year, Stephanie Arricau secured a popular home victory, and the Frenchwoman has finished inside the top five places in each of her last three appearances in the tournament.
She won in 2004; was third in 2006 and tied for fifth in 2003, but did not play in the 2005 event on account of her competing in the United States. After Tuesday morning’s Pro Am, she was fired up having carded eight birdies, with five birdies in a row on her back nine.
France’s Gwladys Nocera, who finished fourth in the event last season, was another strong contender for her home title. The current no.4 on the New Star Money List won the KLM Ladies Open in Holland a fortnight ago and was sixth in last week’s Catalonia Ladies Masters in Spain.
Nocera enters the week behind Germany’s Bettina Hauert, England’s Trish Johnson and Australia’s Nikki Garrett on the New Star Money List, which is Europe’s official ranking.
Johnson aims to follow up her 18th career victory at last month’s BMW Ladies Italian Open with a third French Open title, after victories in 1996 and 1999.
The Englishwoman is among the top 30 players on the Ladies European Tour, who are all in action.
Also competing at Le Golf D’Arras are Spain’s Paula Marti, Australia’s Sarah Kemp, Wales’ Becky Brewerton, Australia’s Anna Rawson, England’s Rebecca Hudson and France’s Sophie Giquel.
Hudson, currently ninth on the New Star Money List, is also sixth on The 2007 European Solheim Cup standings, just outside the cut-off point for automatic selection for the team that faces the Americans in September.
The current top five places comprise Nocera, Johnson, Davies, Hauert and Annika Sorenstam respectively, with Brewerton in seventh place and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen in eighth. Solheim Cup points’ are awarded for top ten finishes in LET events.
The Vediorbis Open de France is the fourth event in this season’s The 18 Finest by Banque Baring Brothers Sturdza SA: a unique competition where two holes are selected from nine venues on the 2007 LET schedule to create a fantasy course of 18 holes.
The idea was developed by founding sponsor Banque Baring Brothers Sturdza SA in connection with the Ladies European Tour and is the first ever golf programme designed for professional women’s golf which incorporates player performances over 18 holes on different golf courses.
After the first three events and six of 18 holes completed, the season-long tournament is currently led by England’s Kirsty S Taylor, with Germany’s Martina Eberl, Australia’s Nikki Garrett, Italy’s Sophie Sandolo and Karen Margrethe-Juul from Denmark rounding out the top five places respectively.
Only 29 players are qualified to compete in the next two holes, which are the 10th and 13th at Le Golf D’Arras.
They will be followed by further stages at the Ladies English Open, the Wales Ladies Championship of Europe, SAS Masters in Norway and the Nykredit Masters in Denmark. The final stage will be contested at the Madrid Ladies Masters, from October the 5th – 7th.