Final Qualifying School: Spain's Maria Beautell strikes the opening tee shot on the first hole of the South Course at La Manga Club in Spain on Sunday morning.
For the fourth successive year, professional golfers from around the world have gathered at La Manga Club in Murcia, Spain, for the Ladies European Tour’s Final Qualifying School, taking place over five rounds, from January 15-19, 2012.
The spectacular resort’s two world-class courses, the North and the South, will again host the 90-hole event, which will see the top 30 players earn their membership for The 2012 Ladies European Tour schedule in category 8a.
The field will play both the North and South Courses for the first four rounds with a cut to the leading 50 players and ties after 72 holes. The final round, which will determine exemption categories for the 2012 season, will then be played on the South course.
After the final round, players who made the cut but finished in position 31 or below will be ranked according to score and will be eligible for LET Membership in Category 9b.
A field of 101 competitors containing 61 potential new members, including 14 amateurs, will contest the Final Qualifying School, considered by many to be one of the toughest tests in the career of a professional golfer.
The players represent 27 different nationalities and the United States leads the way with 16 representatives. There are 11 entrants from each of England and Sweden, followed by eight from France and seven from Spain.
South Africa has six players in the field of competitors, followed by five from Scotland, four from Germany and three from China, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway.
There are two players from Australia, Ireland, Switzerland and Wales. Meanwhile there is one player from each of Chile, Finland, Iceland, India, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Paraguay, Russia and Thailand.
There are potentially two new countries that could become represented on the Ladies European Tour over the next week. Macarena Silva could become the first LET member from Chile while Xin Wang, Jia-Yun Li and Yu Yang Zhang all have the chance to become the LET’s first representatives from China.
The Final Qualifying School at La Manga Club has produced three noteworthy winners since the inaugural event at the venue in 2009. Germany’s Caroline Masson took the honours for that season, while Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist won the Final Stage in 2010, before capturing the McDonalds LPGA Championship and representing Europe in The Solheim Cup in Chicago in her rookie year.
Last year, after winning the Final Stage for 2011, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall captured four titles on the Ladies European Tour in Slovakia, Finland, Austria and India. She also gave a strong performance as a first-time member of the European Team at The Solheim Cup in Ireland and was named the LET’s Rolex Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year.
Interesting facts about some of the competitors:
- Heather Bowie Young, 36, is a veteran of the U.S. LPGA Tour where she won the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in 2005 and was a member of the 2003 United States Solheim Cup Team.
- Meaghan Francella, 29, won the Mastercard Classic Honouring A. Peralta Champion, on the US LPGA Tour in 2007 and the HSBC Brasil Cup in 2010, which was a non-official event. She also tied 5th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2007.
- Lucy Williams, the 2011 English Amateur champion, who made her debut on the Ladies European Tour at the Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf Masters, is the daughter of David Williams, a member of the European tour for seventeen years who is now a Tournament Director. Her grandfather Freddie Williamson was a Speedway world champion from Wales, who was world champion on two occasions in 1950 and 1953, as well as being runner-up in 1952.
- Kelly Tidy, the 19 year-old amateur from Bolton, is in the field. Her idol is Karrie Webb and they wrote to each other since Tidy was six years old and they finally met in person at the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open, where Tidy was competing.
- Rachel Connor, a 21 year-old from Manchester in England, has the record low round of 61 on LPGA Futures Tour.
- Carlota Ciganda, the Spanish national champion from 2000-2006, was the 2007 British Amateur Champion. In 2004 and 2008, was the European Individual champion. She turned pro on 25th May 2011. Her best finish of several appearances on the LET was second at the Tenerife Ladies Match Play, a non-official event. Her uncle, Jose Angel Ziganda, is a coach for Osasuna FC in La Liga (Spanish football first division).