Last year England's Meghan Maclaren was an amateur when she competed at Stoke by Nayland Hotel Golf & Spa in the 2016 edition of the WPGA International Challenge. Frenchwoman Eva Gilly may have run away with the tournament but for Maclaren, the start at home was her first in a professional event, and her last as an amateur finishing solitary tenth at the end of three days, eight strokes behind Gilly.
This year she comes back with two wins under her belt, and a host of top-five finishes including a sixth-place finish at last week’s Andalucia Costa Del Sol Open De Espana Feminino on the Ladies European Tour. Currently, the Order of Merit leader on the LET Access Series, the Englishwoman comes in with a positive frame for this week’s €35,000 WPGA International Challenge.
“Knowing that I played well here last year definitely helps my mindset going into this week. This tournament was the start of my life in the professional world, and it's cool to be able to go back there knowing how much has happened since then.”
There is a huge margin between Maclaren and number two on the Order of Merit, Valentine Derrey - approximately 8,000 points. This, however, is no deterrent for the French professional Derrey who also played on the LET last week finishing in the money, tied 54th.
“This is my first time at Stoke by Nayland and I plan to play my own game, focus on what needs to be done - and hopefully come out with a win.” In four starts this year, Derrey has produced two wins, a T11 and T10 on the LET Access Series.
With the season coming to a close, all eyes will be on the top-five finishers that graduate to the LET next year with full cards. Maclaren is a lock, and Derrey has spent time on both tours this year. The final three spots are close, with Charlotte Thompson, Nina Muehl and Lucie Andre separated by about 1,000 points each.
For Andre, who is fifth, it is a challenge to the end as she is being chased by Emma Goddard of England and Spain's Luna Sobron at sixth and seventh place respectively.
A winner in the Czech Republic earlier in the year, Andre looks back with confidence, focusing on the little things that matter - the difference between a full card and conditional status.
“There’s a great challenge between the three of us for fifth place - the last two tournaments on the LETAS promise to be interesting and full of surprises.”
Goddard who is also playing a home game, agreed with Andre as she looks to regain her card on the LET. “Playing at home is nice, the support is always encouraging. I’d like to give myself the best chance of taking a spot in the top-five as well.”
The tournament will be played over three days between the 28 - 30 September 2017 at the par-72 Gainsborough course in Leavenheath, United Kingdom.