While Leona Maguire will undoubtedly headline next week’s field, there a number of European stars that should feature heavily on your watch-list ahead of the KPMG Women’s Irish Open.
The tournament returns to Dromoland Castle after a ten-year absence from the schedule and with a €400,000 prize fund up for grabs, twice that of last week’s Swiss Ladies Open, the County Clare venue has already attracted a stellar line-up.
It might be ten years on but Scottish legend Catriona Matthew returns to defend the title she captured by a single stroke at Killeen Castle in 2012.
Matthew beat another Solheim Cup legend in Suzann Pettersen down the stretch to claim the title, a victory that arrived three years after the Edinburgh native’s sole major win at the Women’s Open at Royal Lytham in 2009.
That major was an astonishing feat, not least because Matthew had just given birth to her second child 11 weeks before the tournament. “Beanie”, as she’s affectionately known, has gone on to lift four LPGA Tour titles in a brilliant career, though captaining Team Europe to victory at last year’s Solheim Cup stands out as a “career highlight”.
And Matthew remains a force to be reckoned with and will arrive to Ireland in-form after enjoying a podium finish at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in August. Could a successful defence be on the cards at Dromoland? Stranger things have happened.
If someone like Matthew is to prevail, she’ll have to outdo a string of rising Ladies European Tour talents, and perhaps none shine quite as bright as Swedish sensation, Linn Grant.
The 22-year old is a three-time winner this season but it was her absolute masterclass en route to a demolition job of both men and women at the Scandinavian Mixed in June that will live long in the memory.
Not only did Grant become the first woman to win on the DP World Tour but she finished nine shots clear of Henrik Stenson and Marc Warren who shared second, and an incredible 14 shots ahead of her nearest female challenger, Gabriella Cowley. Grant is a must-see at Dromoland, and beyond.
Speaking of prodigious talents, 18-year old Slovenian Pia Babnik is another for the Dromoland watch-list. The youngest player ever to earn a Ladies European Tour card when she became a fully-fledged member at just 16, Babnik is already a two-time winner on Tour this season.
Babnik made her maiden cut in a professional tournament aged just 12 on the LET Access Series. A rampaging winner in the amateur ranks with 22 trophies to her name, including the 2019 R&A Girls Amateur Championship, Babnik has taken to the pro circuit seamlessly where her trajectory has only shot up with each passing week. Expect some fireworks from the highly-talented Olympian next week.
The same can be said for five-time LET winner Anne Van Dam, an explosive Dutch talent who’ll be the longest hitter in the field next week. Averaging 292 yards off the tee in 2022, Van Dam will hope to capture her first title of the season on Irish soil as she continues to work towards promotion to the LPGA Tour.
Meanwhile, England’s Meghan MacLaren isn’t just one of the brightest minds and most eloquent writers amongst pro golfers. She lets her clubs do the talking on the regular too.
MacLaren, who had dipped her toe in Epson Tour waters across the Atlantic earlier this year, is a three-time winner on the LET having claimed her third title in Australia back in April. Expect a big Irish showing as she looks to push towards her LPGA Tour dream. And follow Meghan on Twitter – you won’t regret it!
With more exciting player announcements still to come, expect the final field for the belated return of the KPMG Women’s Irish Open to be bulging with star quality next week. You won’t want to miss it.
Tickets to see the stars of the Ladies European Tour in action at the KPMG Women’s Irish Open are now on sale at www.womensirishopen.ie. Four-day tickets are priced at €35 while single-day tickets will cost €15. Under 16s attending the event will also be admitted free of charge.
You can follow the tournament via social media @womensirishopen on Instagram and Twitter.
Listen to this week’s Irish Golfer Podcast