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9th September 2015 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Reto primed for Evian debut in France

Paula Reto of South Africa in front of the Olympic flameSouth Africa’s Paula Reto believes her baptism of fire in the Ricoh British Women’s Open and the added comfort of compatriot Connie Chen for company over the first two rounds will help her debut in the 2015 Evian Championship in Evian-Les-Bains, France.

Reto and 2014 Ladies European Tour winner Chen, who is also debuting in the season’s final Major, will play alongside with American Tiffany Joh.

LPGA Tour champion Lee-Anne Pace, who tied for 16th on debut in 2012, will join Korea’s Chella Choi and American Christina Kim for the first 36 holes at the Evian Resort Golf Club.

“I am really looking forward to my first Evian Championship,” Reto said.

“I’ve dreamt of playing in France since I turned professional two years ago. While it’s definitely more expensive to play here, I enjoy the European countries a lot and it’s well worth the trip.

“Since French is the language of choice, English and Afrikaans will only get you so far, but I have been stunned by the warm welcomes from the Evian staff and volunteers at this event since I arrived in France.

“Everyone here has been very friendly and helpful, especially with the language barrier.”

The second-year LPGA Tour player had the chance to acquaint herself with the championship layout and is rearing to go.

“I really love the course; a good game plan here is necessary,” she said. “It’s a tight, heavily lined golf course with lots of character on and around the greens.

“The view is spectacular, unlike anything I have ever seen before. I feel very spoiled that we get to enjoy a week of golf with Lake Geneva in almost every background views of the course.”

Born and raised in Strand, Reto moved to Bloemfontein at the age of eight and earned her national colours as a member of the South African Under-18 field hockey team at the age of 14.

She only took up golf at 16 when her family relocated to Florida and won several Florida junior tour events before she took up a golf scholarship at the University of Purdue.

During her tenure at Purdue, Reto was a First-Team All-American, made the First-Team All-Big Ten Conference selection from 2011 to 2013, won the 2013 Mary Fossum Award for lowest stroke average in the Big Ten Conference and became the first back-to-back winner of the Dixie Amateur.

Reto graduated in June 2013 with Majors in Law and Society and competed on the Symetra Tour for six months. She earned her card for the 2014 LPGA Tour card at Q-School and finished her rookie season ranked 77th on the Final Money List.

Reto was among seven golfers from five continents who were treated to a visit to the Olympic Museum and IOC Headquarters ahead of the Evian Championship.

“Since golf will be part of the 2016 Rio Olympics, we were given a guided tour of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland,” Reto explained.

“We all have Olympic aspirations and it a great experience. We learned some history about the Olympics and how much hard work it takes to have these events. And I guess the hard work for me starts here at the Evian Championship this week.”

The South African trio will have to contend with world number one Inbee Park, who leads a strong cast of top golfers in this year’s championship.

Park is hunting a career Grand Slam but the South Korean will have to push hard to get past New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, whom she leapfrogged for the top position in the world golf rankings with her seventh Major victory at the Ricoh British Women’s Open last month.

“Winning all the majors has always been my goal,” said the 27-year-old. “I’ve got my name on every major championship trophy but I won Evian before it became a major. So it would be really good to win it again this year.”

For world number two Ko it is the final chance to become the youngest winner of a women’s major. Morgan Pressel was 18 years and ten months when she set the record at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Ko came close to winning the title as a 16-year-old two years ago, when she finished runner-up to Norway’s Suzann Pettersen.

Since then, the teenager has gone on to hold the world No 1 ranking and she has eight LPGA titles to her name.

PHOTO – Proudly South African Paula Reto; credit Ladies European Tour.