Hull heads power-house field at Killeen

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This week’s AIB Ladies Irish Open has attracted its strongest ever field with 17 Solheim Cup players competing.

This week’s AIB Ladies Irish Open has attracted its strongest ever field with 17 of last year’s Solheim Cup players competing.

Australian Katherine Hull, who was last week’s runner up to Yani Tseng at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, is also in the field – and eager to make up for her near miss at Royal Birkdale.

The full European Solheim Cup Team that competed last year at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, has travelled to Killeen Castle in Dunsany, Co.Meath, Ireland, for the first women’s professional tournament at what will be the venue for the 2011 Solheim Cup.

There are also five 2009 Solheim Cup players from the United States in the field, including Brittany Lincicome and Christina Kim, who both tied for ninth last week at Royal Birkdale, as well as Angela Stanford, Kristy McPherson and Brittany Lang.

The European Solheim Cup line-up includes the 2009 champion at Portmarnock Links, Diana Luna, who gave birth to her first child three months ago, Suzann Pettersen, ranked fourth in the world and winner of this event in 2008, Anna Nordqvist, who is ninth on the Rolex Rankings, Laura Davies, who leads the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List, Catriona Matthew, Sophie Gustafson, a three-time winner of the Irish Open, Maria Hjorth, Helen Alfredsson, Gwladys Nocera, Tania Elosegui, Becky Brewerton and Janice Moodie.

There are also a number of future Solheim Cup prospects playing at Killeen Castle, including talented young Spaniards Maria Hernandez and Azahara Munoz. The pair tied for 14th and 19th respectively at last week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open.

In their short professional careers, the rookies have both won tournaments on the Ladies European Tour.

Hernandez won the 2010 Allianz Ladies Slovak Open in May, while Munoz won the 2009 Madrid Ladies Masters in October on her professional debut.

Hull will bring an international flavour to the tournament along with South Koreans In Kyung Kim, ranked 10th in the world, and Amy Yang, who tied for and fifth at Royal Birkdale.

The charismatic and extrovert Christina Kim is a member of the Ladies European Tour and enjoyed her first night in Dublin on Sunday evening, with friends Kim Welch and Jeehae Lee.
Kim said: “We landed yesterday just around 12 hours ago and a couple of the girls and I went down to the Temple Bar area. We had a few bevies and partied it up a bit. It was the first time that I’ve been allowed outside the airport so it’s been an amazing experience.

“It’s a beautiful area and the land is incredible and the people have been so kind, so it’s been amazing. We just drove up here and it was breathtaking seeing the castle and seeing the miles and miles and miles of flower and foliage. I thought I saw Bambi back there, it was incredible. It’s absolutely stunning here.

“I’m feeling very good about my game and the fact that I felt like I had a bad week but nevertheless managed to squeeze out a top ten in a major certainly helps.

“That is a good sign so hopefully I’ll be able to come in and provide a little entertainment while being able to play well at the same time.”

Ireland will be well represented by professionals Hazel Kavanagh, Rebecca Coakley, Tara Delaney, Martina Gillen and Claire Coughlan-Ryan, the latter playing on invitation after the birth of her first child.

Top Irish amateurs Danielle McVeigh, 22, from Royal County Down and the 15 year old twins Lisa and Leona Maguire from Slieve Russell, are also set to tee up in the event.

With all the talk about 15-year-old professional Alexis Thompson’s runner-up finish at the Evian Masters, it will be interesting to see how the twins test their skills against some of the best players in the world.

The three Irish Curtis Cup representatives who did Great Britain & Ireland proud in the recent matches in the USA are looking to emulate the example of Shane Lowry, who won the 2009 3 Irish Open as an amateur.

Set against the backdrop of Killeen Castle, whose history dates back to 1181, the Jack Nicklaus designed course, which opened in 2009, will play at 6311 yards for the tournament and is a par 72.

With a truly world class, international field of quality competitors, the event will clearly provide the perfect preview for The 2011 Solheim Cup.

European Solheim Cup Captain Alison Nicholas and her vice-captain Joanne Morley will be present for the duration of the tournament and will be joined by US Captain Rosie Jones and her vice-captains Juli Inkster and Sherri Steinhauer, who are on site during the early part of the week.

About Killeen Castle
Killeen Castle, the ancestral home of the Earls of Fingal, sits in a wooded estate in 600 acres in Dunsany, Co Meath.

Set in the historic grounds of one of Ireland’s oldest and finest 12th century Norman castles, the estate at Killeen Castle is home to a unique development of supreme quality residences discreetly positioned among the natural woodlands of the demesne and throughout which the magnificent Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course winds.

“As the course designer,” Nicklaus has said, “I am proud to be part of what is happening at Killeen Castle. It is phenomenal, what with the castle as a focal point. You have wonderful facilities to stage The Solheim Cup or the Ryder Cup in the future. It is a very strong course and will be nicely matured for 2011.”

Located just north of Dunshaughlin in the heart of Royal Meath and overlooked by the ancient Hill of Tara, Killeen Castle is just minutes from the picturesque hamlet of Dunsany.

It offers all the joys of true country living, yet it is only 35 minutes from Dublin International Airport and 45 minutes from Dublin city centre.

The golfing facilities are augmented by a 30,000 sq ft stand alone modern purpose built clubhouse, with parking facilities in an old wall garden setting for 260 cars.

In the context of holding The Solheim Cup, the venue provides ample room (500 acres) for public village and hospitality facilities, a television compound, grandstands and spectator traffic flow, all adjacent to the dramatic 18th hole.

Killeen Castle is soon to be complemented by a luxury hotel and spa. For more information, visit the club’s website, www.killeencastle.com.

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