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Gwladys Nocera defends Ladies Swiss Open

France’s Gwladys Nocera can’t wait to defend the first of her three 2006 victories this week as she prepares for the €525,000 Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open at Golf Gerre Losone.

The 31-year-old arrived at the golf course after finishing third in last week’s Ladies Spanish Open and she said: “I’m feeling good. I played well last week. A top three finish gave me confidence. My coach is here so we are going to work on a couple of things that need to be worked on.

“I think there are a lot of players here who can win the tournament. I know a lot of people want to win this one.”

The Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open is one of the most important tournaments on the 2007 LET schedule as, in addition to the first prize money of €78,750 on offer, due to the prize fund being over €500,000 there are also one-and-a-half times the standard Solheim Cup points available for top ten finishes.

Nocera currently leads The 2007 European Solheim Cup Standings and is fairly confident that she will make the 12-player team that faces the Americans in Sweden in September but she said: “For the points it looks good but its not finished ‘till its finished so my goal is to be a strong player, take one tournament at a time and I want to make myself as good as I can.”

Nocera secured her maiden victory at Golf Gerre Losone in 2006 and then posted two further victories in the BMW Ladies Italian Open and the Catalonia Ladies Masters. Since January, she has resided in Lausanne in Switzerland, so she has an affinity for the country.

The tournament takes place in one of the most scenic settings imaginable, at the foothills of the Swiss Alps, and Nocera admitted: “I feel very well here and it feels very special.”

A win here would catapult Nocera from her current fourth position on the New Star Money List to first position, which would bring many benefits, although Nocera has already qualified for the US Women’s Open. Australia’s Nikki Garrett currently leads the New Star Money List with €84,472, more than twice as much as her nearest rival Paula Marti of Spain, who is ranked second and also in this week’s field.

Garrett jumped into the World’s top 100 players to No.95, moving up 77 places in two weeks after her recent back-to-back victories in the Tenerife Ladies Open and the Ladies Spanish Open.

The 23-year-old champion is looking to make it three titles in a row this week, but only if she can overcome a stomach upset that has left her in agony since her victory on Sunday.

European women golf’s hottest new property said: “I’ll give it a run but I’ll be happy to make the cut this week. I’ve been hitting a few indifferent shots in the practise round. My stomach feels really, really bad. I feel like I know what contractions are now!”

The second instalment of the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open this week features an extremely strong field with 19 of the top 20 players on the New Star Money List in attendance.

England’s Rebecca Hudson, ranked second on the New Star Money List, finished second in last week’s Spanish Open and is hoping to go one better in Switzerland. Meanwhile Wales’ Becky Brewerton (ranked 5th) is back in action after a break last week due to a stomach illness. England’s Trish Johnson, (ranked 6th) is also in the field and hoping to secure Solheim Cup points and her first victory since the 2004 Wales Ladies Open.

South African Ashleigh Simon, who turned 18 on Friday 11th May, has received an invitation to play in the tournament and as she turned professional on Saturday, she will compete for a pay-cheque for the first time.

Her professional schedule is already shaping up having been offered invitations to play in the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open and the KLM Ladies Open in Holland as well as one of the two sought-after invitations available for the $2million HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship on the strength of her amazing match play record.

Simon’s achievements include being the youngest player to receive full African colours, aged 14, playing No.1 for her country in the Commonwealth tournament, the youngest player to win the ladies SA Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play double and the first player in 101 years to win the South African Open title three times.

In 2004 she won the WPGA Ladies South African Open, the only amateur ever to have done so, and has underlined her extraordinary potential by winning a WGA Tour event each year since, including the 2007 WPGA Ladies Open in March. She capped her season off by finishing top points scorer of the 2007 WPGA Ladies Tour.

Simon has already played in 10 Ladies European Tour events as an amateur including three consecutive Women’s World Cups, in partnership with fellow South African Laurette Maritz. However she said: “I’m not expecting much in my first event as a professional. I’m happy with the way I’m playing so I’m quite confident in that respect.”

Her main challenges, she said, were being able to adapt to the different cultures and languages at each tournament in Europe. She joked: “I don’t want to be eating Margaritas all week just because that’s the only thing I recognise on the menu!

“There are always challenges like going to a country a not being able to read the menu or speak the language,” she suggested “It’s all part of the learning curve and I’m sure it will be exciting to play in Europe and see how it goes. There are a few South Africans who have recently joined the LET which is nice as I know a few of them out here as we played together as amateurs.”

Simon will have to rely on invitations to play on the Ladies European Tour, unless she wins a tournament this year. Otherwise she will have to attend Ladies European Tour qualifying School for the 2008 season if she wishes to become a member.


May 17, 2007

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