09 Dec 2018

Diana Luna hoping for better times ahead on the Ladies European Tour

It’s fair to say that 2018 has been a tough year to be a Ladies European Tour player. The Tour has been struggling for events, sponsorship and prize money and even the much-loved Dubai Ladies Classic, which usually takes place this month at Emirates Golf Club, dropped off the schedule, albeit set to return in 2019.

A final blow came with the recent announcement that the lucrative US$1.5 million Vic Open is to switch its allegiance to the LPGA next year and reports have emerged of many LET players being forced into taking part-time jobs in order to survive. Add into the mix that many female professional golfers have to juggle domestic family commitments far more than their male counterparts and life on the LET has been far from plain sailing for many this season. In these relatively austere times, personal sponsorships in the ladies’ game have become all the more important and five-time LET winner Diana Luna has benefitted from the support of luxury watch brand Richard Mille.

The 2009 Solheim Cup player, who finished fourth in the 2011 Order of Merit, has only played two LET events this season due to the lack of viable earning opportunities when weighed against the travel costs and logistics plus lengthy periods away from the family home. Worldwide Golf’s Richard Bevan caught up with the Italian who revealed the challenges faced by the current crop of LET players and her hopes that better times are on the horizon.

WWG: Despite a successful career to date on the Ladies European Tour, you’ve only played two events this season, why is that?
DIANA LUNA: There have been some problems in the schedule this year. The very first stage of the season was in Australia with very small tournaments. I have two kids and for me it was just not possible to stay away from them for one and a half months and play in small tournaments. Later on, we had a tournament in South Africa that was announced very late so I was simply not ready for it. The schools were off and I had to stay with the kids. The same thing with Thailand. They announced the tournament two weeks before the event was due to take place. It was very difficult for me to create a workable schedule the way it has gone this year. I know that the LET had a problem with sponsors and the CEO at the time and they are rebuilding a schedule which looks much better for next year.

WWG: As you say, it’s been a tough period for the LET. Is it something that the players have been worried about? Do you discuss these issues amongst yourselves?
DL: Yes, we have been talking a lot about it and I am quite confident for next season. It might take some time to get everything back together. We really need to focus on Europe and getting everything back to the roots because at the end of the day we are on the Ladies European Tour and we are meant to play in Europe.

WWG: Events like the Lacoste Ladies Open de France, with its strong prize fund and great sponsors, should help boost the LET. The current three-year agreement has prize money increasing each year. Does this set a blueprint for other events to follow suit?
DL: Absolutely! I’m very happy that we have countries like France and Spain, who are still working on local products. But I am disappointed to see rich and financially secure countries like Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway not hosting golf events for women. The federations should do something about these countries which often have numerous golf events for men on the European Tour, Challenge Tour and the Staysure Tour but we still cannot find one LET event.

Problem with Access Tour
We also have this problem with the LET Access Series that may be taking out resources from LET. It’s a good thing to have an Access Series but I think that we can have an Access Tour only if you have established a decent main Tour.
If you offer a sponsor an LET event for 300,000 euro, or an Access Tour event for 60,000 euro, which everyone will still play because otherwise there is no tournament for them to play, the sponsor is going to take the 60,000 euro event.

WWG: How important are mixed events like the GolfSixes, the European Team Championships and the Jordan Mixed Open?
DL: I think they are vital! It’s a great way for the LET to bounce back. It’s a good exchange between the male and female players. We need help from the men and it’s a very good thing for them to have those events as well, as it creates good relationships and partnerships and an overall better product for them and the ladies. We had so much fun in these events, especially the European Team Championships for me. It was my first time playing in a mixed foursome and it was a wonderful experience, even the crowd was interested in what was unfolding and the TV coverage was excellent.

It’s very important to have these kind of events which make golf more fun for people to watch and I think mixed tournaments are really entertaining for spectators. I talk to people who are involved in golf. They play in Pro-Ams with the ladies and they always say how much they enjoy the experience. I think us ladies tend to spend a little more time interacting with the amateurs and they really have an enjoyable day. The men are usually more focussed just on familiarising themselves with the courses ahead of the tournaments!

WWG: The GolfSixes in particular showed the audience that the ladies can more than hold their own against the men…
DL: Absolutely! Especially when you watch the event on TV and you don’t see the difference between a driver being hit 300 metres or 250 metres. People are surprised that the girls are able to put backspin on the ball! The audience does not realise the high the quality of the LET.

WWG: From our perspective it is a shame that the LET is not ending in Dubai this year for the first time in a long while. What do you think of that considering you have done well at that tournament (Diana’s best finish was fourth place in 2013)?
DL: I love the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic and I’m still very keen to go back to Dubai and play again at the Emirates Golf Club. I was very sorry to hear that we will not be playing there this year and I am hoping that we will play in the UAE next season. I think the event will take place at the start of the season but I’m not sure. I love Dubai, I love the city. It is like a second home to us, as I’ve been there so many times.

WWG: 2011 was a standout year for you, winning two titles, including the Ladies German Open, where you were the first LET player in history to go bogey-free for the whole tournament and you also came close to winning a third title at the Ladies Open de France where you lost in a play-off. Give us your view on that season?
DL: When I was on the course on the final round of the Ladies German Open I didn’t realise that I hadn’t made any bogeys! I was on the 16th and had a second shot to the green but it was not good so I ended up just off the green. When I holed the putt and realised that I hadn’t made any bogeys that week my caddie was so happy! He knew that I was on a bogey-free run but he didn’t say a word. I was so confident and I was playing so well. I carded 24 birdies to finish on 24 under par which is a tournament record. You can only have a few weeks like that in your career.

WWG: In 2009 you won back-to-back titles to get into the Solheim Cup team. How was that experience for you and were you surprised not to get back into the team after such a great year in 2011?
DL: People are still in disbelief that I was not picked for the 2011 Solheim Cup. I did not play for the majority of 2010 as I was giving birth. But in 2011 I won with a 24 under par score in Germany and I won in Switzerland, so it was clear that I should have been one of the picks and yet they did not pick me. I also did so well in the 2009 Solheim Cup as I won all of my matches, so it was really disappointing for me not to be a part of the team.

WWG: What do you make of the season that Francesco Molinari has enjoyed – winning The Open, the BMW PGA Championship and the Race to Dubai as well as playing a starring role at The Ryder Cup? That must make all the Italian golfers very proud of him.
DL: I’m so proud of him! I’ve known him for so long because we are the same age and we used to be in the amateur national team together and we have played in many events. He is a very nice person and he has been working very hard so it is really good to see someone succeed when they really deserve it. He has always been the same. He has not changed since I first met him, he has always been humble.

WWG: You’re sponsored by Richard Mille – how did you get involved with them and how does it feel to play wearing a watch which is a unique aspect of all the brand ambassadors?
DL: We first met through a mutual friend who thought that I would be a good partner for them and I just fell in love with the brand! I am really honoured to be a part of the family. The watches are just incredible, I was worried at first because I was thinking about how I would play with a watch on my wrist. I tried it out and I could barely feel I was wearing the watch, it was like a second skin! You simply can’t have that with any other watch brand. It’s not only
about the lightness, which I have to say is quite extraordinary, it is also about the shape and the fact that the watch would not move as I swing.

Diana Luna is a Richard Mille ambassador.

Share this article
Swing Sequence

Wyndham Clark Swing Sequence

By Jonathan Craddock, PGA Professional, Pete Cowen Academy One of the...

Xander Schauffele swing sequence

By Jonathan Craddock, PGA Professional, Pete Cowen Academy Xander Schauffele has...

Related articles

Upbeat McIlroy Ready for US Open After Marital Reconciliation

Rory McIlroy’s upbeat mindset ahead of this week’s US Open at...

U.S. Open Preview – Who will claim the year’s third Major?

The third Major of men’s schedule gets underway this month with...

Surviving Summer – How Courses Cope With The Heat

Words: Will Kent Photography: Provided by Stuart & Getty Images The...

Kiaan Keeps On Winning – UAE’s Latest Jnr Star

Photography & words by Will Kent Eight-year-old Kiaan Maharaj has become...

Gaudet rings the changes for women’s golf

Elisa Gaudet, Founder of Women’s Golf Day, talks exclusively to Rick...

Masters Green Jacket Thief Charged

A former warehouse assistant at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia...