LET heads to Ireland

The LET moves to Killeen Castle this week for the Ladies Irish Open – effectively a dress rehearsal for The Solheim Cup.

The Ladies European Tour moves to Killeen Castle near Dublin this week for the Ladies Irish Open, hosted by Fáilte Ireland, which is effectively a dress rehearsal for The Solheim Cup.
This week’s event will see all of Europe’s top players attempt to shine in front of Captain Alison Nicholas on the course that will host the biennial transatlantic match play event in seven weeks’ time, from September 23-25.
There are three potential American team members in the field, who will be feeding information about the course back to the United States Captain Rosie Jones before she names her team on August 21.
They are Stacy Lewis, ranked third on the US Solheim Cup points’ list from which the top 10 qualify for the team, extrovert Christina Kim, hovering just inside the qualification mark at 10th on the list and Vicky Hurst, who is 13th and could earn one of two captain’s picks.
The European team is formed from the top four on the Ladies European Tour’s points’ list, followed by the next four players from the Rolex World Rankings and four captain’s selections.
The Ladies Irish Open is the penultimate qualifying event for the European team and the first four players from the points’ list will be known following the conclusion of the final event, the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open presented by EventScotland, being played at Archerfield Links in just over a fortnight’s time and concluding on Saturday August 20.
The top four spots are currently occupied by Laura Davies, Melissa Reid, Christel Boeljon and Suzann Pettersen, while the next four from the Rolex Rankings are Maria Hjorth, Anna Nordqvist, Catriona Matthew and Sophie Gustafson, all of whom are competing in Ireland.
Gustafson, the defending champion, arrives in great form after finishing third at last week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Carnoustie in Scotland.
She is a huge fan of Ireland, having won six times on Irish soil, with four Irish Open titles in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2010, the World Cup in 2000 and at the BT Open in Northern Ireland in 2003.
Last year, the Swede saw off the challenge of In-Kyung Kim and Marianne Skarpnord to earn a one stroke victory at Killeen Castle with a winning three-round score of 12 under par. She has again been warming up by fly fishing for rainbow trout on the property’s well stocked lakes.
A seven-time Solheim Cup player who has scored 12 Cup points, Gustafson is a virtual shoe-in for the team, but with 30 Cup points available for a victory, only Frenchwoman Virginie Lagoutte Clement could knock Pettersen out of fourth place on the standings this week.
A runner-up place wouldn’t be enough for Lagoutte-Clement, but she would have one last chance to qualify when she defends in Scotland in a fortnight.
Two straight victories could in theory bring Diana Luna, Becky Brewerton, Caroline Hedwall, Anna Nordqvist and Florentyna Parker into the mix for automatic qualification.
Otherwise they and the likes of Caroline Masson, Linda Wessberg, Gwladys Nocera, Sandra Gal, Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari and Karen Stupples would have to hope for a wild card pick when Nicholas names her 12-woman team on Monday August 29.
There is unlikely to be a home representative on the team with Rebecca Codd, formerly Coakley, at 63rd on the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List the highest placed Irish competitor in the field this week.
Irish professionals Tara Delaney, Martina Gillen and Hazel Kavanagh are also teeing up, while Royal County Down’s Danielle McVeigh turned professional on Monday ahead of the event.
The Maguire twins, Lisa and Leona, are the only amateurs in the Ladies Irish Open field and poised to compete on the European PING Junior Solheim Cup team when the event takes place at nearby Knightsbrook from September 20-21.
Rising US star Alexis Thompson, 16, is another young gun to watch after she earned a 10 stroke victory at the LPGA’s first stage of qualifying school last week in Florida.