Fans hoping to admire the skills of Russian stunner Maria Verchenova in the AIB Ladies Irish Open have been stymied by red tape.

The only women’s professional in the former Soviet republic was due to tee it up at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links on a sponsor’s invitation today.

But Verchenova, 22, was eventually forced to abandon plans to play in the €450,000 event when officials refused to grant her a working visa.

The event promoters suggested that the Moscow native could avoid her entry problems by flying to Belfast and then driving down to the capital.

But she revealed that she doesn’t know how to drive and gave up on her dream of playing in Ireland.

Now in her second season on tour, Verchenova had a best-ever finish of tied fifth two weeks ago in the Tenerife Ladies Open.

But the revived Ladies European Tour event will have no shortage of star power when the action gets underway today.

Major winner and world No 3 Suzann Petterssen of Norway is the biggest attraction in the field.

And she is delighted to tee it up in the home town of reigning Open champion Padraig Harrington, who showed her the way to major success last year.

After blowing a four shot lead in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, she bounced back to capture her first major in the LPGA Championship.

American Morgan Pressel, the world No 15, is also at Portmarnock Links alongside Irish challengers, Rebecca Coakley, Martina Gillen, Claire Coughlan-Ryan, Hazel Kavanagh, Suzie O'Brien and amateur Aideen Murphy.