Olivia Cowan (GER), Natalia Escuriola (ESP), Isi Gabsa (GER), Johanna Gustavsson (SWE) and Krista Bakker (FIN)
The final event of the LET Access Series, the WPGA International Challenge at Stoke by Nayland Hotel Golf & Spa, not only produced its third multiple winner of the season but also decided the top five players, who will progress directly to the Ladies European Tour for the 2016 season.
The LET Access Series graduates are, in qualifying order: Olivia Cowan from Germany (1), Natalia Escuriola of Spain (2), Isi Gabsa from Germany (3), Johanna Gustavsson of Sweden (4) and Krista Bakker from Finland (5).
Spain’s Natalia Escuriola won the final event, the WPGA International Challenge, claiming 2nd place on the order of merit. The 21 –year-old has enjoyed a very solid season with a further five top six finishes, three of which were runner-up positions in the Ribeira Sacra Patrimonio de la Humanidad International Ladies Open in Spain, the Drobak Ladies Open and Larvik Ladies Open, both played in Norway.
“I feel really happy to earn this LET card. I did a great job during the season and during my life. That is the beginning to something very important for me and now I only think to improve my golf to be better for next season,” Escuriola commented.
“The highlight of the year for me was when I won my first tournament on the LET Access, on the 18th green. The other best moment was when I won in England with my mum as my caddie.”
“I have learned many things this year. How to plan for a tournament, the flights, hotels etc. The experience to play with professionals golfers. And I think that the most important thing this year was the opportunity to play often under pressure.”
Germany’s Olivia Cowan topped the LETAS order of merit, with a record equalling three tournament wins, first achieved by Sweden’s Emma Westin during the 2014 season. Cowan won the ASGI Ladies Open in Switzerland, the week after she missed her only cut.
Further wins came in the Boras Ladies Open in Sweden and the Norrporten Ladies Open. With a further four top ten finishes, including finishing tied 3rd at the WPGA International Challenge, Cowan remained ahead of her fellow countrywoman Isi Gabsa, who finished 3rd on the order of merit.
“It feels amazing and I'm really glad I don't have to go to tour school in Morocco this year. That was a stressful time last year,” said the 19-year-old Cowan.
“The highlight of my season was probably when I won the three tournaments and when I received the news that I had won the Order of Merit. I knew that it could have changed at the last tournament because I didn't play all of the events, so I still had to give it my all and of course I wanted to do well in the tournament again.”
“LETAS has been a great learning experience and has definitely helped me prepare for the Ladies European Tour for next year.”
Gabsa, was one of three players who won multiple times in 2015. A winner of the PGA Halmstad Ladies Open by Haverdal, the German player also enjoyed an extremely consistent season, with just one missed cut and only one placing outside the top 20 in 13 starts. The 20-year-old also finished her season strongly with a tied tenth place finish at Stoke by Nayland.
Gabsa said: “It isn´t easy to find the right words, it was my aim and I reached it. It feels great, overwhelming, fantastic. I am so happy and looking forward to 2016.”
“I will never forget my first win in Sweden at the PGA Halmstad Ladies Open. Of course the next highlight of the season was the back-to-back win at the Drobak Ladies Open. The CreditGate24 GolfSeries Hamburg Open in Germany has been a special tournament. To play in your home country is an amazing feeling. There are some personal highlights, some drives and trouble shots and a few putts. I am very proud of my performance and the continuity during the whole season.”
“I had such a good time and felt comfortable this year. The LET Access Series is the perfect preparation for the LET, a very good supplement to collect experience and get stronger as a player. There are a lot of tournaments, which are very well organised and the Series is getting popular. I think it´s the best way to check out if you can live the life as a golf professional.”
Sweden’s Johann Gustavsson became a first time winner at the Larvik Ladies Open and finished the season strongly with three top ten finishes in the final three events. Gustavsson recorded a further three top ten finishes during the season to secure her place in fourth on the order of merit.
She said: “It feels amazing, it hasn't sunk in yet but I’m very proud of myself and very happy earning the card after my first season on the LET Access Series. It's been my goal the whole season to get on the main tour for next season. In the beginning I imagined getting it at Q school and use the season to learn and get ready for the main tour. But this was a way better way of getting there.”
“Finishing 4th In Sundsvall was big for me. That was my best finish so far in the season and of course in Larvik winning my first professional title ever. That was unbelievable, breaking the world record in the playoff, I'll never forget that...14 holes. The last one in England wrapping it up and getting the card was also amazing.”
“It's been such a fun year. I've learnt so much about myself as a player and person, and also about the game. I’ve seen a lot of new countries and new places, played a lot of great courses. I met some fantastic people, getting to known the girls on the tour. I loved it.”
Fifth place was occupied by Finland’s Krista Bakker. The 21-year-old from Espoo secured her place with a win at the CreditGate24 GolfSeries Hamburg Open and a further two runner-up finishes at the Norrporten Ladies Open and the Azores Ladies Open.
Bakker was conscious that she would need to a strong finish at the final event to stay ahead of fellow Finn Oona Vartiainen, who occupied sixth position, to guarantee her place in the all-important top five positions on the order of merit. Her sixteenth place was good enough to secure the fifth and final qualifying spot.
Bakker commented, “It feels awesome to get a tour card for the 2016 season. I have worked hard this year and it's great to see the result. I played five tournaments this year on LET, but it was hard to plan my season because I didn't know for sure which tournaments I'm getting in. So next year will be much easier to plan everything. I'm happy that I have a better category now. Really looking forward to next year."
“My highlight of the season was winning the Creditgate24 GolfSeries Hamburg Open. I had couple of good tournaments where I finished 2nd. It was a pretty solid year for me, especially the end of the year.”
“I think LET Access Series is a great chance to grow up as a player. The level is much better than a few years ago. So it's great that you need to play your best game that you can win a tournament. The LET Access Series also has a good schedule, so there is enough tournaments to play.”
In addition to the top five players on the LET Access Series Order of Merit earning their Ladies European Tour cards, a further fifteen LETAS players also progressed to the final stage of Lalla Aicha Tour School, which takes place over the Samanah and Amelkis Golf Courses in Marrakech, Morocco from the 18 – 22 December.
Those players include Oona Vartiainen (FIN), Kym Larratt (ENG), Michele Thomson (SCO), Rachel Raastad (NOR), Sanna Nuutinen (FIN) Ariane Provot (FRA), Emilie Piquot (FRA), Olafia Kristinsdottir (ICL), Natalie Wille (SWE), Maria Palacios (ESP), Maria Beautell (ESP), Leena Makkonen (FIN) Emma Nilsson (SWE), Valdis Thora Jonsdottir (ICL) and Astrid Vayson de Pradenne (FRA).