On Wednesday, Mark Lichtenhein, the chairman of the Ladies European Tour, was in Strasbourg, France, to announce a 2019 Women’s European Open, an event which will be part and parcel of the European Commission’s Week of Sport from 23-30 September and BeActive campaign.
“It’s a very strong announcement – and where better to have the event than in the official seat of the European Parliament,” said Lichtenhein. As for the venue, that is the Golf du Kempferhof course which, like Le Golf National of Ryder Cup fame, was designed by the late Robert von Hagge.
Where, in 2017, there were no more than 15 tournament on the LET’s schedule, Lichtenhein is talking of 23 in 2019, with the total building to 30 within the next five years.
All of which will come as music to the ears of a player like Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, one of the stars of the moment in that she shot two 62s in the course of a three-week spell in September on the way to winning the Lacoste Ladies Open de France and finishing in a share of second place in the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Open in Spain. Hedwall, who had a stint of playing in America, longs to have more opportunities in Europe: “It’s so friendly over here,” she said. “Everyone is supporting each other.”
As previously announced, the 2019 schedule will start in Australia and South Africa, with an inaugural mixed open taking place in Jordan in April.
“Momentum,” says Lichtenhein, “builds momentum and, though I’m wary of saying too much too soon, I’ve been having good meetings with the Italians, who will be hosting the Ryder Cup in 2022. They seem to see the need to bring back an Italian Women’s Open which, after all, is really no more than a token gift as against what they are doing for the men.”
“At the moment,” he continued, “Spain, France and Scotland are leading the way among the European countries. We’re grateful to them but disappointed in Germany and the Nordic countries.” Though plenty of Swedes and Germans play on the tour, their federations/governments do not seem to feel that they are under the same obligation to do the same for the women as they do for the men.
Outside Europe, support from the Middle East and countries such as Australia, South Africa, Morocco, Thailand and India continues, with India promising an increase in prize money for their Indian Open.