Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera says that being a former champion of the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open doesn’t count for much when she tees it up this week at the Clearwater Golf Club.

Nocera is one of five former champions – alongside Laura Davies (England), Kristie Smith (Australia), Lindsey Wright (Australia) and Lydia Ko (New Zealand) – to return but one of only two players to have won at Clearwater with the tournament being staged at Pegasus for three years. 

The 38-year-old from Biarritz, who won the inaugural event in 2009 and was ceremoniously thrown into the lake alongside the 18th green by her compatriots, said that her form right now counts much more than memories of winning the event.

“It is an honour to be a past champion but for me it is a long time ago since I won in New Zealand – many years ago and I don’t take a lot of confidence out of that,” she said.

“I take more confidence out of how I am playing right now and the results I had in 2013.”

Nocera has a superb 2013 to draw from.

After five years without a victory Nocera was finally back in the winner’s circle with two wins in 2013.

She played in 21 tournaments and racked up four additional top 10s including T2nd at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France, where she had a second-round 63, to cap a superb year.

Nocera earned a four stroke win at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open presented by Respect and then held off the 2012 champion Carlota Ciganda to win the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in China by two strokes.

“My form is pretty good. I had some good results in 2013 and I was happy with how I was playing. It is always nice to win again and to win twice in 2013 was a huge boost for me after so long without a title.”

Nocera had a longer break coming into this year. She hadn’t touched her clubs since the season ending event in 2013 in Dubai and spent a lot of time with her family.

“I am feeling fresh and I am looking forward to getting back into it. I want to build on what I did last year and it is always nice coming to Australia and New Zealand to play in these events when it is freezing back home.”

Nocera had a solid start to her year with rounds of 70, 73 and 73 at the Oatlands Golf Club to finish in a share of 36th place at the Bing Lee NSW Open last week on the ALPG Tour.

She arrived in Sydney on Sunday night ahead of the tournament and only received her clubs the day before the event so her preparation was less than ideal.

“It was a little frustrating to not be able to practice but I couldn’t do much about it,” she said.

She feels more prepared this week and she loves coming to New Zealand. 

“I like everything about New Zealand. It is a beautiful place, it is a really great golf course and the people are really friendly and welcoming towards the players. I always look forward to coming back to New Zealand.”

Nocera finds the Clearwater Golf Club a tough golf course but she likes playing on challenging layouts.

“I like playing in the wind, it suits my game and you have to play well to win around there. You have to hit the ball into the right areas of the greens otherwise the greens are very tricky. It is a good test and I enjoy playing there.”

She also enjoys coming to New Zealand because a conversation about rugby is always likely.

“People love talking about rugby down here. I like that. It was really cool to see the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and since then they have got even better. To win every match last year was amazing. I look forward to seeing them play this year. Everyone in France loves the All Blacks.”