Gwladys Nocera has returned to Morocco this week to defend the Lalla Meryem Cup, her 14th and most recent Ladies European Tour title, earned last year at Golf de L’Océan in Agadir.
The unique tournament, named in honour of HRH Princess Lalla Meryem, was established in 1993 but began a new era in 2010 when it joined the Ladies European Tour schedule, in the same year that the Trophée Hassan II became sanctioned by the men’s PGA European Tour.
This year, both tournaments return to Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in the capital Rabat, where the men’s and women’s events will run concurrently from Thursday to Sunday, on the Red and Blue courses respectively.
Nocera returns with fond memories having won the title at the venue in 2007 when the Lalla Meryem Cup was a much smaller, invitational event.
She recalled: “It was great fun, with a small group of players and I remember the course being tricky and narrow. I loved Rabat, it’s a great city with lots to do, lots of good restaurants. The souk is wonderful and it’s always fun to go into the city to visit and meet the local people.
“I love this tournament, I feel at home in Morocco. The Hassan II Golf Trophy Association treats me like a princess and it’s pretty special. I will always be grateful to have such support.”
Last March, Nocera finally conquered the Golf de L’Océan Course, where she had finished second to Charley Hull in a play-off 12 months earlier. A final round of one under par 70 was enough to stay two strokes ahead of English pair Felicity Johnson and Melissa Reid and South African Nicole Garcia. It also helped the distinguished Frenchwoman to qualify for her fourth appearance in The Solheim Cup.
This year, she feels confident that she can capture the title for a third time. “It’s my goal and I’ll do everything I can to win this event. It does mean a lot to me to win here, so I made sure I prepared properly! My coach will be on site, so that’s always a great help.
“I spent two weeks at home, which is pretty rare and I really enjoyed that. I worked out quite a bit, did some different physical training sessions and practised. I also played in a 100 per cent French event in Evian, the Jabra Ladies Open. It was great to have a tournament at home and was really well prepared.”
With two professional events being played concurrently in Rabat this week, Nocera will be one of the star attractions and she said: “I think it’s pretty special and I’m really grateful to the people in Morocco who had this amazing idea. I’m looking forward to the crowds coming to watch the ladies’ and then the men!”
As Tuesday marks 100 days to go until the opening tee shot in the Olympic Games, it’s fitting that both Nocera and Alexander Levy, who are poised to represent France in the women’s and men’s Olympic golf competitions respectively in Rio, will be preparing to tee off in Rabat.
Nocera will also participate in a mixed exhibition match over seven holes on the Green Course at 10.30am on Wednesday morning, along with Dame Laura Davies, Carly Booth and local star Maha Haddioui, as well as Thomas Levet and fellow stars of the European Tour.