The European Nations Cup, taking place from April 14-17, will give the leading contenders for Solheim Cup places a unique chance to catch the eye of European Captain Alison Nicholas ahead of the big event at Killeen Castle from September 23-25.
The European Nations Cup will be held at La Sella Golf Resort in Dénia, Alicante, Spain, for the fourth time this year with a special team format. The 18 teams of two players, comprising the top 16 European teams and two invited pairs, will compete over four rounds, or 72-holes, of stroke play.
There will be two rounds of four-ball competition played on Thursday and Saturday and two rounds played in the Valencian Cup format, a variation on greensomes, on Friday and Sunday.
There is only one other team event on the 2011 Ladies European Tour schedule - The Solheim Cup – so Nicholas and her Vice-Captain Joanne Morley will be watching closely from outside the ropes as the players demonstrate their special talents.
Last year’s event was won by Sweden, represented by seven-time Solheim Cup player Sophie Gustafson and Anna Nordqvist, who made her Solheim Cup debut at Rich Harvest Farms near Chicago almost two years ago. Both are strong contenders for this year’s European team.
England’s Laura Davies, the only player in Solheim Cup history to have participated in all 11 editions of The Solheim Cup, is on target to make her 12th appearance on the team. She will pair up with last year’s Turkish Airlines Ladies Open champion, Melissa Reid, who is desperate to make her Solheim Cup debut.
Frenchwoman Virginie Lagoutte-Clement is third on the points’ list and also targeting her Solheim Cup debut. She overcame difficult conditions to capture her third LET title at the 2010 Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open presented by EventScotland and she will partner Karine Icher at La Sella.
Denmark’s Iben Tinning, who claimed her sixth career title at the 2010 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters before retiring from competition in December, is fourth on The Solheim Cup European team standings and will make a one-off return appearance to play alongside countrywoman Malene Jorgensen.
Two-time Solheim Cup player Becky Brewerton, who is sixth on the team standings, will represent Wales with Lydia Hall. Meanwhile Christel Boeljon, who won the European Nations Cup representing the Netherlands in 2009, is eighth on The Solheim Cup European points’ list and hopes to make her Cup debut this year. She makes a return appearance at La Sella with compatriot Dewi-Claire Schreefel.
Anja Monke and Caroline Masson, both of whom are inside the top-20 on The Solheim Cup points’ list, will pair up to represent Germany, while Scotland’s Vikki Laing teams with five-time Solheim Cup player Catriona Matthew, the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion.
The young Spanish team of Maria Hernandez and Azahara Muñoz will be one to watch closely and they will be bringing a captain from the Spanish Golf Federation this year to support wearing a special outfit. The Italian team of Veronica Zorzi and Giulia Sergas will also bring a captain from their Federation.
The USA, represented by Brittany Lincicome and Christina Kim, who have both made two Solheim Cup appearances, will bring their own brand of excitement. In fact, the only players in the field who will not be eligible for either European or USA team selection will be Katherine Hull and Karen Lunn, representing Australia, last year’s runner-up nation.
A number of exciting activities will run alongside the main competition, starting with a theatrical presentation of the teams at the Pink Party on Tuesday evening, sponsored by Anna de Codorniu.
The VIP Pro Am on Wednesday will see only two amateurs combine with each professional. On Friday evening, there will be a ‘nearest the pin’ contest to an island green at La Marina de Dénia.
It will be the caddies’ turn to play when a nine-hole tournament gets underway on Saturday afternoon. The professional golfers will carry the bags, before enjoying a barbecue sponsored by Estrella de Levante (beer).
Following the conclusion of the main event, the winners will be crowned on the 18th green at the closing ceremony scheduled for 4pm on Sunday.
Dewi Claire Schreefel