A field of 108 players from 17 different countries will tee up at Stoke by Nayland this week in the penultimate tournament of the LETAS season.
The par-72 Gainsborough course will host a strong field chasing a €35,000 prize fund and also the goal of gaining an exemption on to the Ladies European Tour for next season.
Budding stars of women’s golf will be in action when the Suffolk venue hosts the WPGA International Challenge for its sixth edition, from the 13-15 September.
The 54-hole event is the only LETAS event to be staged in the UK this year and includes 15 WPGA members, comprising winners from the WPGA’s One Day Series and the remaining places secured via a qualifying Order of Merit over the same period.
Fifteen spots are also allocated to the leading English amateurs decided by England Golf. The recent English Women’s Amateur champion, Georgina Blackman, will be in the field and a player to watch. The 22-year-old from Chelmsford graduated from Western Kentucky University in May and will look forward to testing herself against the professional players.
Sweden’s Emma Nilsson currently leads the Order of Merit by just under 1700 points from Elia Folch of Spain, with the winner of this week’s event earning 5,000 points. Nilsson has enjoyed a strong season with a win at the Belfius Ladies Open in July, and a further two runner-up placings in the Terre Blanche Ladies Open in April and the Viaplay Ladies Finnish Open in early June.
The 24-year-old set herself a goal at the beginning of the season, to finish in the top 5 spots on the ranking, something she is guaranteed to achieve. Nilsson is looking forward to this week’s event, a course and venue she knows well.
“I’m very excited for this week in England. This will be my fifth time playing the WPGA International Challenge. I really like the course and the greens are always in good condition. And we will stay at the hotel on the course, which is really nice. My results in the last two tournaments have been 10th and 11th, so I’m really looking forward to the week,” said Nilsson.
All but one of the players in the top ten of the rankings is in the field. The only player missing is France’s Astrid Vayson de Pradenne, currently 4th on the LETAS order of merit, who will be competing in the final major of the year, the Evian Championship, by virtue of her Jabra Ladies Open win earlier this year.
Last year’s WPGA International Challenge winner Lydia Hall of Wales, comes into this week’s event in good form, recording a tie for 30th place in the LET’s Lacoste Ladies Open de France last week. Hall has combined playing on the Symetra Tour in the United States with her LET and LET Access Series commitments. A defence of her title is high on Hall’s agenda.
“I’m very excited to return to Stoke by Nayland to defend. Last year’s victory was a highlight of 2017 and I’d love for a repeat in 2018. I obviously enjoy playing the golf course and hopefully the win last year will give me an advantage over my fellow competitors this week. I’m aiming to defend my title so I’m going to be fairly aggressive to make as many birdies as possible.”
Another player to watch will be England’s Rachel Goodall, who collected her first LET Access Series trophy at the recent Turfman Allerum Open in Sweden. Her win moved the 27-year-old into 13th spot on the LETAS rankings and within touching distance of the top five. Goodall is relishing the opportunity to play at home this week.
“I’m excited to play after winning the last tournament. I’m trying to keep things the same as I always do in the run up. I am much happier with my game this year, I have been working hard in the off season trying to simplify things in my game so I am looking forward to competing this week. I love English courses, it will be a great atmosphere being in England. I have played here a few times over the last few years and have some great memories here,” commented Goodall.
Play gets underway on Thursday morning at 8.00 with free admission to the public. Follow live scoring at http://www.access.letscoring.com/leaderboard/2314/