LET: Lalla Meryem Cup Preview

The fifth stop on the Ladies European Tour gets under way in Agadir, Morocco, this week, at the 20th edition of the Lalla Meryem Cup, from March 13-16, under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.  The tourney has everything needed for some exciting golf and an engaging shootout, headlined by a Battle of the Youngsters for the top of the board.

Defending champion, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, returns to Golf de l’Océan as the top ranked player in the field of 126 competitors. The 18-year-old World Ranked No. 34 will be looking to make up for time lost last year, when she was forced to take eight months out from the game because of a shoulder injury she sustained when she was fooling around with her sister, Moriya.   Jutanugarn demonstrated plenty of promise at last week’s World Ladies Championship in China, where she finished in a tie for fourth behind three of the top five players in the world.

reflect2Jutanugarn’s looking good and she’s mentally ready:

I had a fantastic time at last year’s Lalla Meryem Cup so I’m really looking forward to defending my title in Morocco.   I am determined to give my best performance and I feel that I am playing well enough to win. Last week in China gave me a lot of confidence, especially shooting a 66 and 67.

Charley Hull

Charley Hull

England’s Charley Hull, LET 2013 Rookie of the Year and another of the rising teenaged stars on the world golf stage, lost out to Jutanugarn by three shots in a thrilling conclusion to the 2013 Lalla Meyrem Cup.  Hull’s going to be on the hunt for the victory this year.

The Lalla Meyrem marked the beginning of a sensational year for the 17-year-old Hull, who lifted the trophy for Europe as the youngest ever player in the 2013 Solheim Cup.

From the Lalla Meyrem, Hull went on to record five consecutive second places and she brings fond memories to the event as well as her hunger for her first pro victory.

American Beth Allen, who’s ranked 17th on the LET, shared the runner-up spot with Hull last year and has had a strong start to the 2014 season.  Allen finished the New Zealand Women’s Open in February in a tie for 3rd place and followed that with finishes inside the top-20 at the RACV Ladies Masters and at the World Ladies Championship.  The American’s very much in contention and could easily steal the spotlight and take home the Cup.

A Look at the Field

The strong field also includes Laura Davies, Gwladys Nocera and Sophie Gustafson, who won the event before it was sanctioned by the LET in 2008, 2007 and 1998 respectively, although she’d had a bit of a slow start to her 2014 season.

The legendary Laura Davies will tee off with 79 career wins across Tours — LET, LPGA, and ALPG — and more than 100 top-10 finishes.   Trish Johnson, who’s also in the field, is the highest ranked player in the field from the LET’s ISPS HANDA Order of Merit in fifth place after finishing ninth last week in China and is joined by last year’s LET Players’ Player of the Year, Lee-Anne Pace.

Morocco’s top player, Maha Haddioui, will be aiming to give her home fans something to cheer about.  In 2013, Haddioui became the first Moroccan to hold membership of the Ladies European Tour and she finished tied for 44th at the Lalla Meryem Cup, before recording a season-best finish of equal 20th place at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France.

Haddioui is particularly enthusiastic about the 2014 Lalla Meyrem Cup:

I hope to give a strong performance and help to inspire more youngsters from my country to participate in the sport.  This edition is very special to me because it’s the 20th one but also represents 100 years of golf in Morocco.

Hopes and dreams are going to be scattered all over the Lalla Meyrem leaderboard.  There are three amateurs in the field – Mathilda Cappeliez of France, China’s Jing Yan and Olivia Mehaffey of Northern Ireland — and 25 LET rookies, many of whom qualified for the LET through Lalla Aicha Tour School in Marrakech in December.  They include current leading rookie Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, Scotland’s Sally Watson, Spain’s Patricia Sanz Barrio, Brazilian Victoria Lovelady and Nobuhle Dlamini of Swaziland.

Double Fun

Although the Lalla Meryem Cup was inaugurated in 1993, this is the fifth year that the tournament has featured on the Ladies European Tour schedule.

It is unique in world golf in that two men’s and women’s European Tour events take place in the same city, during the same week.

While the women compete in the Lalla Meryem Cup, the men will contest the 41st edition of the Hassan II Golf Trophy on the European Tour at nearby Golf du Palais Royal from Thursday and there are various shared functions and clinics as well as the prize giving.

The shared events kicked off with the men and women paired up for a special 6-hole exhibition match played at Golf du Palais Royal on Tuesday  Laura Davies will played with Paul McGinley, while Gwladys Nocera partnered Jose Maria Olazabal, Sharmila Nicollet with Michael Hoey, and Maha Haddioui with Robert Karlsson.

With some of the world’s top professionals from the men’s and women’s European Tours and three fast-rising amateurs, fans can look forward to some outstanding golf. The stage is set for a memorable Lalla Meryem Cup and Hassan II Golf Trophy in 2014.

Tags: European Tour Golf Hassan II Golf Trophy Ladies European Tour Lalla Meyrem Cup LET

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