LETAS season starts at Terre Blanche

Henrietta Zuel, winner of the 2011 Terre Blanche Ladies Open

The 2012 LET Access Series will tee off with the Terre Blanche Ladies Open from March 14-16 when England’s Henrietta Zuel attempts to defend her maiden professional title at Golf de Terre Blanche near Nice in southern France.

Last year, Zuel earned a two shot victory over Frenchwoman Caroline Afonso, the 2010 event champion. The 22-year-old Zuel, from Somerset, went on to win the LETAS Ladies Open at Hazlemere in the UK and finished second on the 2011 order of merit, earning her full card for the 2012 Ladies European Tour season.

“I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to playing the course again and getting back into competitive golf. Defending my first title makes it that much more fun,” said Zuel, adding: It will always be special to me as it was my first professional win. Last time I played it was in great condition, I really enjoyed the layout and design. 

“I feel pretty good about things right now: I’ve worked hard in the off season and it’ll be really interesting to see where I’m at with my game. 

“Last year was so hectic for me, so I’ve been enjoying some time off at home with family and friends. Getting things in order… finally did all my ironing and paperwork! More recently, I’ve been out in the Middle East doing some practice at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi. I’ve also signed over from Calvin Klein to Puma clothing this year, so I’m very excited about that!”

Zuel will face an even stronger field of competitors in the 2012 event, including last year’s order of merit winner Marieke Nivard of the Netherlands, who won two LETAS titles in 2011 at the Trophee Preven’s and Azores Ladies Open and also earned her LET tour card.

Nivard is looking forward to teeing up again after playing in her first LET tournament of the 2012 season at the World Ladies Championship in China.

“I’m always looking forward to playing. It’s early in the season and I’m trying to play as much as I can. Terre Blanche is a good tournament to prepare myself for the rest of the year. It’s really nicely set up and it’s good for practise as well,” said Nivard, 21, from Eindhoven.

She explained that she will combine playing in four or five Access Series events with 19 tournaments on the LET this year and is grateful for being able to plan her calendar.

“It’s a lot better now because I get to schedule my whole season. I already know now what I’m going to play in November and December and that makes it a lot easier. Last year I was always on the reserve list and had to wait to see whether I would get in or not and never knew what I was going to play the following week, so that makes it easier for me.”

Last year’s runner-up Afonso is also in the field along with Italian Margherita Rigon who tied for third last year and Slovakia’s Zuzana Kamasova, who became the first winner from Eastern Europe on the Ladies European Tour with her victory at the 2011 Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

Jade Schaeffer, who collected her second LET title at the Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf Masters last year, will return to compete on home soil after winning on the Access Series in 2010.

Other well-known names in the field include Virginie-Lagoutte Clement, Rebecca Flood, Sophie Sandolo and Cassandra Kirkland.

The 2011 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year, Lauren Taylor, from England, who is currently lying 18th on the World Amateur Golf Rankings, and Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell, both of whom are LETAS amateur members, are also teeing up at Terre Blanche. Taylor will be one to watch after her victory at last year’s Women’s British Amateur Championship at Royal Portstewart.

The field also includes a number of first year members of the Ladies European Tour, many of whom will be making their professional debuts. They include Mireia Prat, Sofia Harkonen, Sarah Jones, Lene Krog, Erika Holmen, Alessandra Averna, Gemma Webster and Vicky Tomko.

The competitors will play for a purse of €25,000 and will be able to enjoy first class practice facilities at Terre Blanche, including a fantastic driving range, where players will be able to practise ahead of the first event of the season. Once again the event has attracted an international field of competitors from 17 different nations including those as far afield as Estonia and Morocco.