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Emily Kristine Pedersen was the leading money winner on the Ladies European Tour in 2020. The tour will be playing for a record €19 million in prize money in 2021.
By John Huggan
On the same day that the European Tour announced a new addition to its tournament schedule (the €1 million Kenya Savannah Classic March 23-26 will be the first half of an African doubleheader, one week after the Magical Kenya Open), the Ladies European Tour went 27 times better with the unveiling of a record-breaking 2021 program of events. A year on from the establishment of its joint venture with the LPGA, the LET will this year visit as many as 19 countries and offer total prize money in excess of €19 million.
Perhaps just as exciting for a circuit that has for so long operated under professional golf’s radar, more than 200 hours of live golf will be shown. Coverage will extend to more than double the number of tournaments in a season that gets underway at the rescheduled Investec South African Women’s Open from May 13-16. Europe will play host to most tournaments, 23 to be exact between June and September, as the LET visits Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Spain, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland.
Later in the year, the LET revisits India, Kenya and Morocco after having to cancel events in these countries in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as being provisionally set to play in Thailand and the Philippines for the first time in LET history.
“This is brilliant,” says Englishwoman Meg MacLaren, a two-time LET champion.
“This is easily the strongest schedule we have ever had. Having so many playing opportunities is really important, maybe even more so than the cash on offer. Plus, it’s nice to see so many events in Europe. We’re still a global tour, but this schedule will make it a lot easier for players to travel between events. And so much television coverage can only raise the profile of the players amongst the mainstream golf audience. Hopefully, this is just the bedrock for what is to come—bigger purses and more and more three-day events becoming four-day events.”
Still, not everything is straightforward. Part of the amped-up and revamped schedule is the Aramco Team Series. Funded by Saudi Arabian money and comprising four events in New York, London, Singapore and King Abdullah Economic City (near Jeddah) each tournament will carry a €830,000 prize fund. It is, however, the team aspect of each that provokes divergent opinions.
Last November at the Saudi Ladies Team International, Denmark’s Emily Pedersen led her four-strong side (three professionals and one amateur) to victory. The problem was not so much that the amateur scores counted towards the team total, but the fact that there was such a range in their abilities. Pedersen’s winning team had an amateur who was better than scratch and was making birdies to help the team score. Other teams had players who failed to count on even one hole. Hardly a level playing field and especially unfair when the money won was counting on the money list.
On a happier note, the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España will once again play host to the season finale, with the €600,000 event deciding the season’s Race to Costa del Sol. The Race will offer a bonus pool of €250,000 between the top three finishers on the official rankings: €125,000 for first, €75,000 for second and €50,000 for third.
“We are extremely excited to announce our record-breaking schedule for 2021 and thrilled to offer some good news to our membership after a difficult season last year,” said Alexandra Armas, LET chief executive officer. “The LET is dedicated to supporting our members and growing the game of golf to new and existing markets and we are proud to confirm the return of not only all postponed events but the addition of several new and innovative tournaments.”