The highly anticipated 2013 LET Access Series begins this week with the Terre Blanche Ladies Open in the heart of Provence, southern France.
Terre Blanche, a breath-taking five-star facility located 45 minutes from Nice on the French Riviera, hosts the tournament for the fourth successive season.
A field of 96 players from 23 different countries will be playing for a purse of €25,000 over three rounds from Thursday, 21st to Saturday, 23rd March. Following the first two rounds, a cut to the leading 30 players and those tied will compete in the final round on Saturday.
France’s own Marion Ricordeau will set out to defend her title and replicate her performance from a year ago which saw her claim her first LETAS title, by finishing three strokes clear of Australian Rebecca Artis with a 54-hole total of eight under par. Last year, Frenchwoman Caroline Afonso ended a stroke further back in third.
After finishing second on the 2012 LETAS Order of Merit, Ricordeau earned her full card for the 2013 LET circuit but she realises that an even more impressive field of competitors will be teeing up at Terre Blanche this season.
“I’m quite excited because it’s a course I really love so I’m really happy to go back and try to defend my win from last year,” Ricordeau said. “I’m playing okay now so I think I’m going to do well. I know the level is high so it will be tough but I’m really happy to go back.”
She even rated the venue as her favourite on tour. “I love it because it’s always so well prepared and I think it was the best course I played last year, even amongst the LET events I played because the greens are just perfect. Even if it’s the end of March, it’s normally not great weather and quite cold but the greens are amazing and the course is great. It’s in France and I feel great; they love hosting a ladies’ professional golf tournament so I feel really good on that course.”
A strong field will be fighting to take the first title of the year and make a statement in the season opener. Last year’s LETAS Order of Merit winner Pamela Pretswell will be aiming to get off to another blazing start.
Other LET rookies teeing up in Terre Blanche include German trio Leigh Whittaker, Nina Holleder and Ann Katrin Linder, Sweden’s Rebecca Sorensen, England’s Charley Hull, Sweden’s Daniela Holmqvist, Elena Numenpaa of Finland and American duo Meghan Greghan and Mallory Fraiche.
Other names to watch out for include Maha Haddioui of Morocco, Slovakia’s Zuzana Kamasova and LET regulars Sophie Giquel-Bettan, Jade Schaeffer and Cassandra Kirkland of France.
In addition to the €4000 first prize on offer, the highest placed player not otherwise exempt will earn a place in the field for next week’s Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco on the Ladies European Tour.
At the end of the season, the top five players on the 2013 Order of Merit will qualify for the 2014 LET season while the top 15 will qualify for the final stage of Lalla Aicha Tour School.
Terre Blanche, a stunning, mature resort is a breath-taking five star facility offering a hotel and state-of-the-art Spa to the world-renowned Albatros Golf Performance Centre, and is completed by two delightfully challenging 18 hole courses designed by Dave Thomas.
Developed by the Hopp family, Dietmar Hopp, past CEO of SAP - former co-sponsor of the SAP-Deutsche Bank Open on The European Tour - and now President of the club, Terre Blanche also acts as the winter base for the French Golf Federation’s elite amateur squads.
The Terre Blanche Ladies Open will be played on Le Riou: a highly technical course requiring strategy and precision, stretching to 6,005 metres (6,567 yards) and featuring rolling contours and winding fairways. The course unfolds through pine- and oak-lined hills and valleys, providing inspiring views of medieval Provençal villages and the Southern Alps.