The next Ladies European Tour event is the Mission Hills World Ladies Championship in China, which will be held on the challenging Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Haikou, on the paradise island of Hainan, from 6-9 March.
Serving as the LET’s fourth stop of 2014 and co-sanctioned with the China LPGA Tour, the tournament has attracted a stellar field of competitors and with live international television coverage it will be an inspirational showcase of high performance sport.
The World Ladies Championship is unique in professional golf in that it consists of three events in one – an individual professional competition, a professional team championship in which countries are represented by teams of two, and an individual amateur tournament, all played simultaneously over 72-holes of stroke play.
The Blackstone course will play host to the tournament for the first time. The crown jewel of Mission Hills Resort Haikou, the Blackstone opened in 2010 and was named Asia’s ‘Best New Course’ by GOLF magazine in the United States as well as ‘Asia Pacific Best Championship Course’ by Asian Golf Monthly magazine.
The course weaves through a striking landscape of mature trees, lava rock, and expansive lakes and wetlands. Lava rock walls and village ruins created years ago remain as a testament to the site’s past. As a premiere tournament venue, the Blackstone Course hosted Asia’s only golf and entertainment event, the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro Am, as well as the 2011 World Cup of Golf in which Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland of the USA were victorious and The Match at Mission Hills between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in October 2013.
Here is a look at the players who will compete in the team competition over the famed Blackstone Course.
So Yeon Ryu
The defending champions have a formidable team with the current World No.1 Park and World No.5 Ryu. Park – winner of three Majors last year –won the team competition last year with Ha Neul Kim and also finished runner-up to Pettersen in the individual tournament in 2013.
World No.2 Pettersen won the individual strokeplay event at Mission Hills last year and finished second in the team competition with Skarpnord, five strokes behind Team Korea. Pettersen won five tournaments around the world in 2013 – including her second major at The Evian – and is joined for the second time by last year’s South African Women’s Open champion Skarpnord.
Californian Allen is representing the USA for the third time in the team event and Lewis, from Florida, replaces Hannah Jun. Individually, Allen tied for 7th in 2012 and 12th in 2013, while Lewis finished T48th on her event debut in 2012.
Julianne Alvarez (amateur)
‘Leftie’ Bristow will be making her event debut after playing her rookie season on the LET in 2013 and is joined by last year’s NZ Amateur Champion Alvarez, a talented pianist and ‘straight-A’ student who played in the recent ISPS HANDA New Zealand Women’s Open.
Shan Shan Feng
Xi Yu Lin
Feng’s one-stroke victory over Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum at Mission Hills Haikou two years ago made her the first player from China to win on the Ladies European Tour (LET). The current World No.6 is teaming up with fellow Guangzhou player Lin, a second year LET member who is a rookie on the LPGA this year.
Keating and Artis both know the venue well but will represent Australia as a team in the event for the first time. Last year, Artis finished as the top Australian on the LET’s ISPS HANDA Order of Merit after earning her first victory at The Helsingorg Open in Sweden while Keating earned two titles in 2012.
Booth will represent Scotland for a third consecutive year but will be partnered by second year LET member Pretswell, making her event debut after a solid rookie season in 2013. Pretswell has had a steady start to 2014 with cuts made in New Zealand and Australia. This will be her first visit to China.
Patricia Sanz Barrio
This young Spanish pair will be exciting to watch as two of the Tour’s most promising talents. Prat won the LET Access Series Order of Merit in 2013 after earning two victories and nine further top ten finishes while Sanz Barrio finished second to Prat after one win and three second places.
Two-time LET tournament winner Simon returns to represent SA for the second time in the team event having partnered Lee-Anne Pace in 2012. Chen will play in the team competition for the first time, but this is her third visit to Mission Hills.
For 12-time LET champion Nocera, the 2013 WLC was a successful tournament as she finished fifth in the team competition with Anne-Lise Caudal and tied for eighth in the individual event. Derrey posted 25th in the 2013 event, which was another strong result. The pair will combine for the first time.
A new team for England will see last year’s rookie and Deloitte Ladies Open champion Clyburn team up with third year LET member Burke. Both players have made strong starts to the 2014 season, Clyburn with a tie for 23rd at the ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open and Burke with a tie for 28th in the same championship against one of the world’s strongest tournament fields.
Playing for Sweden with Lindberg, three-time LET tournament champion Wessberg finished fourth in the team competition in 2012, but finished T30th in the individual competition in 2013. This will be Lennarth’s second year on tour and her debut in the WLC. She will be looking to build on a successful rookie season on the LET.
Jutanugarn and Srisawang will represent Thailand together for the second straight year, having finished third behind Korea and Norway in the 2013 team competition. Individually, they finished T12th and T22nd respectively in the WLC last year, just before Jutanugarn won the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco as a rookie. She may have missed most of last season through injury, but look out for her this year.
Both Lindner and Nagl will make their tournament debut in this year’s WLC. As a rookie in 2013, Lindner collected her first victory at the HONMA Pilsen Golf Masters and was one of three talented rookie winners on tour along with Clyburn and Jutanugarn.
Nicole Broch Larson
Broch Larson will be a rookie on the Ladies European Tour in 2014. After turning pro last year with a handicap of +5.5, she earned two straight victories at the HLR Golf Academy Open and Ladies Norwegian Challenge, and ended the season ranked 3rd on the Order of Merit. Sixth year LET pro Jorgensen will be representing Denmark for the second time.
Klara was the youngest player on Tour when she joined the LET aged 16 and still only 19, she is now practically a veteran in her fourth year on Tour. She tied for 42nd in the individual stroke play at WLC last year and this will be her first opportunity to play as a team thanks to the inclusion of Prorokova.
Lin turned professional in 2008 and played on the Symetra Tour from 2009-2011 before joining the LPGA in 2012. This will be the pair’s debut in the WLC.
Yu Yang Zhang
In 2013, her second year on the LET, Zhang played in six LET events and made three cuts but saved the best until last when she recorded a career-best finish of second at the Sanya Ladies Open in Hainan, China. After tying with Lee-Anne Pace, she was defeated by a birdie at the first extra hole. She is great friends with team-mate Wang and even asked her to caddie for her in the play-off at Yalong Bay Golf Club in October last year.
photos Janos Schmidt