The Evian Ladies European Tour have announced the 2002 Tour schedule, which portrays a stronger pan-European feel and highlights a more stable future for women’s European professional golf. Thanks to increased recognition and sponsorship in new European markets, the Tour has added four new events to the calendar, all with long-term agreements.
With five Tournaments won by Spaniards last season, and three-time winner Raquel Carriedo from Zaragoza claiming the order of merit, it comes as little surprise that the Tour has secured Iberian Tour events in Salamanca and Tenerife, with another on the outskirts of Lisbon in Portugal.
In addition, the Tour will see an inaugural event in Norway with the £220,000 (EUR363,880) Ladies Norwegian Open from August 1-4, held at Oslo GC, the home of, Suzann Pettersen, last year’s Bill Johnson Rookie of the Year. “We are delighted that we have been able to build on the excitement and competition created by the new breed of young stars who were so successful in 2001,” said Ian Randell, chief operating officer of the Tour.
“This season’s new additions to the schedule reflect a stronger Tour across Europe and our efforts have been focussed on developing long term agreements to build a solid foundation from which we can grow in the future,” he continued.
“We are extremely grateful to the promoters and golf Federations who have assisted us in developing new events in Tenerife, Portugal, Spain and Norway, along with the organisers of existing tournaments who steadfastly continue to support the Tour.
“In addition, in reflecting our international outlook whereby our Tour incorporates 31 different member nationalities with events in 13 countries, the Tour has adopted the Euro as its official currency.”
The 2002 Tour gets underway from February 21-24 in Brisbane, Australia with both the ANZ Masters and the AAMI Australian Open announcing significant increases in prize funds.Former World number one Karrie Webb aims for her fifth straight ANZ title at the Royal Pines resort before the Tour heads to Melbourne for the AAMI Women’s Australian Open where Swede Sophie Gustafson is the defending champion.
The European swing begins with a five-week stretch starting with the Ladies Tenerife Open at Golf del Sur from May 2-5, before moving on to the Ladies Irish Open, held this season at the glorious Killarney Golf and Fishing Club in County Kerry from May 10-12.
Then the players head to Poggio dei Medici in Tuscany for the La Perla Italian Open, scene of Spanish newcomer Paula Marti’s first victory last season. The Tour will again break new ground as they head to Portugal for the Ladies Open of Costa Azul at Aroeira GC, then head across the border to Spain for the EUR250,000 Caja Duero Open de Espana Feminino at Club de Campo de Salamanca.
The Evian Masters is the first of the European majors. It takes place from June 12-15 and will witness the finest women golfers from across the globe compete for the $US 2.1 million prize fund in what has been coined’The Masters’ of women’s golf.
The following week will see the Arras Open de France Dames return to Arras GC in northern France, while the Ladies German Open will again be played at the fantastic Nick Faldo course at the Palmerston golf resort near Berlin.
The Ladies Norwegian Open should prove a mouth-watering build up during the week before the second major championship staging of the Weetabix Women’s British Open, played at Turnberry in Scotland from August 8-11 where Korean Se Ri Pak will strive to repeat her success at Sunningdale last year.
In what should prove to be a dramatic conclusion to the 2002 Solheim Cup points race, the Tour will return to Scandinavia for the £325,000 Compaq Open at Vasatorp GC in Sweden, then back to Royal Porthcawl GC for the £400,000 Wales WPGA Championship of Europe.
With a double points weighting for The Solheim Cup available this season, the best European born Tour players are almost obliged to attend the bigger events if they are to fill the top seven automatic spots and represent Europe at Interlachen GC from September 20-22.
If not, they will have to rely on one of the five available wild cards from Captain Dale Reid, whose team will be gunning to retain the magnificent crystal trophy and win for the first time in the history of the event on US soil.
The final scheduled event is the Biarritz Ladies Classic from October 4-6,when in 2001, England’s Rachel Kirkwood proved that Cinderella stories do come true as she won her first Tour event, having only entered to try and regain her 2002 playing rights. Moreover, the Tour is still hopeful of announcing an event in due course at the home of golf, Scotland.
Sadly for all involved around the Tour and LETE, the commercial arm of the Tour, there is no English event at present this season due to the withdrawal of sponsorship of the Ladies British Masters, held last season at the DeVere Mottram Hall in Cheshire and won by Paula Marti after a thrilling finish. “With a schedule in place that I believe is showing great stability for the future of the women’s game in Europe, the one disappointment is that at the current time is that it appears unlikely that we will hold a tournament in England,” said Robin Gibson, commercial director for LETE.
“The Ladies British Masters has grown in stature over the last couple of seasons and has a fantastic venue in Mottram Hall. Everyone at the Tour feels frustrated that sponsors in England are not giving women’s golf the recognition and support that it deserves and we are all working extremely hard on this, one of our most heavily supported events. We can only hope that someone comes forward to rescue what has always been a great spectacle for golf fans.”
Evian Ladies European Tour www.eviantour.com