The Ladies European Tour’s 2016 Order of Merit winner Beth Allen has returned to Golf de Chantaco in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Aquitaine, to defend her title at the 27th Lacoste Ladies Open de France, which starts tomorrow, at 8.45am local time.
The field of 78 competitors includes Solheim Cup stars Cristie Kerr, Georgia Hall and Florentyna Parker as well as Azahara Muñoz, who won the title in 2013 and 2014 and captured the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de España a fortnight ago.
With 18 French players in the field, there is the chance of a seventh home winner. Gwladys Nocera, a winner of 14 titles on the LET and the No.1 in 2008, would love to capture her national title, as would Isabelle Boineau, the last French winner on the LET at the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open in 2016.
Trish Johnson is looking to become the first player to win the title for a fourth occasion, having won in 1996, 1999 and 2010 and Diana Luna will be keen to improve on her four second-place finishes in the event. She suffered two play-off defeats in the tournament, in 2010 and 2011 and finished second in 2012 and 2016, to Stacey Keating and Allen respectively.
This is the sixth consecutive year that the tournament has been played at Golf de Chantaco. Last year, Allen came from three strokes back with nine holes to play to earn a four-stroke victory over Luna and Florentyna Parker.
The LET spoke with Allen about her memories of her 2016 victory and she said: “It feels really good to be back as I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time. I have a lot of good memories, especially of the back nine on the final day last year, because I was three down with nine to play and I finished well with a birdie on the last. I can remember every shot I hit on the back nine and I made birdie on 18 again today, which was nice.
“I’m looking forward to being out with Cristie and Aza in the morning as they are both my friends and great players. I will do my best on this course: I know it really well and if I play like I did last year then there’s no reason why I can’t do it again.
“This year has not been the best and I’ve scraped by in the States, but now I have more experience I think that it will be better next year. I know the ropes now. I started off the season really well and had a long drought when I lost some confidence but I’ve got some form for at the end of the year and hope to end on a good note.”
The course took 21mm of rain over three days from Saturday to Monday and was unplayable on Tuesday morning and Allen added: “The course is pretty wet but I know that they are doing their best to get it back together and I think having the sunshine today will help. I know it’s hard to mow greens when it’s this wet. It might play differently because you can really fly the ball to the hole, as the greens are so receptive. The course is playing a little longer and is not as bouncy, so I’m playing my approach shots about five to seven yards longer, because they are sticking due to being so wet.”
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE LACOSTE LADIES OPEN DE FRANCE
The championship is one of the oldest and most prestigious on the LET schedule. The first edition, in 1987, was won by Liselotte Neumann at Fourquex.
Past Evian Masters winners in the field are Trish Johnson (1996, 1999 and 2010), Linda Wessberg (2007), Felicity Johnson (2011), Azahara Muñoz (2013 and 2014) and Beth Allen (2016)
The lowest round of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France at Chantaco was 62 (-8) by the winner Stacey Keating in 2012
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT DEFENDING CHAMPION BETH ALLEN
From 21 starts on the LPGA this year and one additional start on the LET (Oates Victorian Open, where she tied for 36th), Beth’s best finish has been a tie for 7th at the ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open.
Currently No. 124 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings
She has three LET victories: the 2015 ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters, 2016 Lacoste Ladies Open de France and 2016 Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open
WHITE THURSDAY FOR CASSANDRA KIRKLAND
For the first round of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on Thursday, the players and staff have been asked to wear white to celebrate the life of French player Cassandra Kirkland, who sadly passed away in April this year, as white is the official colour for lung cancer awareness. The LET will be running a birdie pledge for the first two rounds, with players donating €5 per birdie on Thursday and Friday and the proceeds will be donated to ARTIC, a charity close to Cassandra. Use the hashtag #Fight4Cass to join us in posting images from the day in memory of Cassandra.