Stacey Keating is targeting a successful defence of her maiden professional title at this week’s Open de España Femenino, at a new venue, Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
The 27-year-old from Cressy in Victoria birdied the first extra hole in a sudden-death play-off against German Caroline Masson to earn her first of two Ladies European Tour titles at Golf Las Américas in Tenerife last September, after four solid rounds of 70, 69, 70 and 70.
This is the Tour’s first visit to Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, which will host the Summer Olympics in seven years if Madrid 2020’s bid is successful.
The typically upbeat Australian said: “I guess it’s a little bit different because we’re at a different golf course and it’s a different time of year and everything. I guess it’s still the Spanish Open and I’m looking forward to the week.”
In 2012, her second season as a professional, Keating broke through with two back-to-back wins on Tour including the Lacoste Ladies Open de France and ended sixth on the season-ending ISPS HANDA Order of Merit.
This year she has started well with three top ten finishes from six starts in Europe, including a season-best third place at the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Women’s Open. She also qualified to play in the US Women’s Open, but missed the cut.
“I’ve never defended a title before so I think it’s a little bit different,” Keating added. “I’ve had a couple of weeks off and I was in the States for a couple of weeks which was a great experience. I’ve been practising the last couple of weeks. My game is feeling good and I’m looking forward to it."
“The course is in great shape, for the practice rounds it’s been a little bit damp so some holes might play a little bit longer. I think you’ve definitely got to keep it in the fairway here. It’s quite tree lined but it all comes down to putting in the end."
“It’s average length. I think some of the holes could play a bit longer just with it being a little bit damp, I don’t think there’s a lot of run out there and some of the par threes are quite lengthy as well.”
With forecasts set for sunshine and temperatures of 34C every day, Keating added: “It could be quite warm this week and I guess it can be quite hilly so with four rounds it will be a good test.
“I’m feeling very relaxed, no different to usual. I’ve got a nice early tee time on Thursday so I’m looking forward to that. It will be nice playing early.”
Keating will play in the second group out from the 10th tee at 8.10am with Tania Elosegui and the 2011 Spanish Open champion Melissa Reid on Thursday.
Home hope Carlota Ciganda, Charley Hull and Lee-Anne Pace are teeing off first at 8am.
Australia is very well represented this week, with 11 Aussies teeing it up. Joining Keating are Karen Lunn, Whitney Hillier, Kristie Smith, Alison Whitaker, Bree Arthur, Nikki Campbell, Stephanie Na, Nikki Garrett, Sarah King and Rebecca Artis.