Rebecca Coakley and Hazel Kavanagh will tee it up for Ireland in the Comunitat Valenciana European Nations Cup at La Sella Golf Resort in Alicante from 22-25 April.
Ireland is one of 18 nations confirmed for the team contest that will feature some of the biggest stars in women’s golf including major winners Catriona Matthew of Scotland, Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Australia’s Karrie Webb.
Matthew, who is the reigning Ricoh Women’s British Open champion, will team up with Krystle Caithness from St. Andrews, while last year’s LPGA Championship winner Nordqvist will partner the experienced Sophie Gustafson, who topped the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List for the fourth time last season.
Webb, a winner of 46 professional titles, will join 11-time winner Karen Lunn in representing Australia, which is the one of the two invited nations. All other teams qualified as the top Europeans from a combination of the Rolex World Rankings and the Henderson Money List, the official ranking on the Ladies European Tour.
The Netherlands duo of Christel Boeljon and her team mate Marjet van der Graaff will attempt to defend the title, while Italy will have a strong team in Giulia Sergas and Veronica Zorzi, who tied for second at the 2009 tournament.
The 2008 European No.1 Gwladys Nocera, who finished in a tie for second with Anne-Lise Caudal at last year’s competition, will play for France with Jade Schaeffer, who won her maiden title last year in Germany.
Spain’s Tania Elosegui, who claimed her maiden LET title last year in the Netherlands, will represent the home nation alongside Emma Cabrera-Bello.
Representing England will be the 2004 British Open champion Karen Stupples and Melissa Reid, while Wales also has a powerful team in Becky Brewerton and Breanne Loucks.
The victorious 2009 US Solheim Cup Captain Beth Daniel and her assistant Captain Meg Mallon will again represent the United States after finishing seventh on their debut in 2009.
It is the strongest international field gathered for the tournament since its inauguration in 2008.
Looking forward to the challenge, world No. 16 Matthew explained: “It is always nice to represent your country and play as a team. I love playing in team competition and have always played pretty well.
“Nothing compares to Solheim, which is the ultimate team event, however, I have also loved playing in the World Cup, Lexus Cup and JC Penney Classic over the years and in the Curtis Cup when I was an amateur. I like the fact that you are playing not just for yourself.”
The format is unchanged from previous years with two days of better-ball followed by two days of Valencian Cup.
Matthew continued: “I like the format; it is the same format that the used to play the JC Penney mixed team event in the US. I played with Dan Forsman from the PGA tour for a few years and we always did very well.”
On her playing partner, she added: “I don’t know Krystle very well at all. We met in Dubai at the end of last year. She had a really solid rookie year and won the unofficial pro-am event in Dubai. She is obviously a good player having played in the Curtis Cup as well.
“Her results last year were pretty consistent. I think that is what you want in team competition: two players who are fairly consistent and always keeping the ball in play is the key to doing well.”
Webb, who recently won her seventh ANZ Ladies Masters, explained: “I’m really looking forward to it as I’ve heard so many good things about it from other players.
“I almost played last year but it didn’t quite work with my schedule, however when I saw we had an open week on the LPGA schedule this year, I wanted to play. I haven’t played in Spain since 1995. We rarely get a chance to play in a team. I used to thoroughly enjoy being part of a team during my amateur days.
“I’ve heard the course sets up well for team competition, it’s always in good condition and fun to play. I’ve also heard the area is really beautiful.”
On playing partner Lunn, she added: “Before I turned pro Karen had achieved a lot in her career, including winning the Women’s British Open. I looked up to her when I was growing up.”
Boeljon, who is still only in her second year as a professional, enjoyed a four stroke victory last year with Marjet van der Graaff.
She said: “The field this year I think is even stronger than last year’s. There are a lot of talented players out there, but I’m confident that if I play well that we will have a good shot at defending the title.
“I’ve known Marjet for several years. We have played amateur golf together for many years, both as individuals and team events. While Marjet is a long hitter and capable of making a lot of birdies, I am a little more consistent from hole to hole, and round to round.”
Now in her third year on tour, van der Graaff continued: “It’s was a great, unexpected win, which was good for women’s golf in Holland and we received some media attention. We both played well last year and we did very well as a team together. We can win again. We are both better golfers than last year but you have to be lucky that both players are playing well on the week.”
This year’s event, sponsored by Valencian Community Investments (VCI), will feature prize money of €350,000 and a whirlwind social calendar.
Outside the ropes activities include an evening event called “Approaching the Sea” at Denia Marina, where players hit balls to a specially constructed island green.
There will be a longest drive competition over the outdoor swimming pool at La Sella Resort, with the event mascot “Birdie” in attendance to entertain spectators and an art exhibition featuring work by top Spanish realist painters.
There will be a “pink cocktail” event at local bars and restaurants, as well as a 14 round tournament called the “European Amateur Cup,” with a place in the Pro Am for the winning couple.
Fans of women’s golf further afield can partake in a competition on the official tournament website, www.euronationscup.com, where a break for two at the Denia Marriott Hotel at La Sella Resort can be won.