A group of 17 Spanish players are ready to battle for their home title as part of a field of 126 international world class competitors when the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España Femenino gets under way at Aloha Golf Club in Marbella from Thursday.
|No Spanish player has lifted the trophy in the history of the event, which was first played at Los Alves in 1982 and most recently took place at Golf Costa Adeje in Tenerife in 2014.This year, the Spanish contingent is headlined by local star Azahara Muñoz, the multiple Solheim Cup player from San Pedro del Alcantara in Malaga, who recently represented Spain at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She has won three titles on the LET, including the Madrid Ladies Masters in 2009 on her professional debut. Although she finished 12th in Tenerife two years ago, she will be playing in more familiar surroundings close to home this week.
Another player to watch will be the LET’s leading rookie, Nuria Iturrios, 20, from Mallorca, who recently won the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco. Having finished 25th in the 2014 event as an amateur, she is looking forward to playing on home soil as a full Member of the LET and said: “I think it’s great for Spanish people to get to know us. It always feels better to play at home than in other countries. It’s a new tournament, a new experience and we’ll all really enjoy it.”
Iturrios leads the Rookie Rankings by €28,178 over Angel Yin of the United States after playing in six tournaments so far in 2016.
“To be the Rookie of the Year was my objective at the start of the year, so I have started well and I hope to have some good scores in the next tournaments,” she said. “I played well in Evian. My last round was not a dream round, but it was my second Major and I enjoyed it a lot.”
The other local players hoping to fare well include the 2016 LET Access Series Ranking leader Maria Parra, who is making her professional debut this week. Parra, 19, from Sotogrande in Andalucia, has won two titles on the LET Access Series this year, the PGA Halmstad Ladies Open by Haverdal and the Drøbak Ladies Open in Norway. She also tied for ninth in the LET’s Lalla Meryem Cup and ended her amateur career ranked fourth in the world.
Another former LETAS tournament winner is Marta Sanz Barrio, 24, from Madrid, whose best finish on tour was sixth in the 2015 ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open. She said: “I’m really, really happy to be playing at home in Spain again. It’s going to be an interesting atmosphere and hopefully we will play well.”
Natalia Escuriola Martinez, 22, from Castellon, qualified for this year’s LET by finishing second on the 2015 LETAS Order of Merit after two wins on the feeder tour, at the CitizenGuard LETAS Trophy and WPGA International Challenge. She joins fellow Spanish LET rookie Noemi Jimenez Martin and Elia Folch in the field, along with the more experienced Lalla Aicha Tour School qualifiers Carmen Alonso and Mireia Prat.
The nine invited Spanish players are Laura Cabanillas, Marta Silva Zamora, Camilla Hedberg, Silvia Banon, Maria Parra, Maria Beautell, Carolina Gonzalez Garcia, who won the ASGI Ladies Open on this year’s LET Access Series, as well as Maria Palacois Siegenthaler and Piti Martinez Bernal.
Aloha Golf Club is hosting a female Spanish Open for the first time but this will be the third Open de España Femenino played on the Costa del Sol after the 2010 championship at Flamingos Golf, won by Laura Davies and the 2011 event at La Quinta, won by Melissa Reid. As well as Davies (who also won in 1986 at La Manga) and Reid, who celebrated her birthday on Monday, the other former winners in the field include Connie Chen (Golf Costa Adeje in 2014) and Stacey Keating (Golf Las Americas in 2012).
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