European Solheim Cup team member Gwladys Nocera is targeting a 15th Ladies European Tour victory at the Xiamen International Ladies Open at Orient (Xiamen) Golf and Country Club this weekend.
The former European No.1 tasted success in China two years ago when she won the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open. She now has her sights on a second LET title in 2015 after winning the Lalla Meryem Cup in March.
A keen traveller, Nocera has won 14 tournaments in 11 different countries. She would love to collect a second Chinese title after finishing tied for 47th at last year’s inaugural Xiamen Ladies Open.
“It’s nice to be back in Xiamen,” said Nocera, 40, from Moulins in France. “The main key will be the reading of the greens: some of them are slopey and different from the grass at home, even quicker, so it’s hard to find the right speed.”
This year, the tournament has been increased from three to four rounds to reflect the format for Olympic golf next year in Rio de Janeiro. Nocera continued: “This week it’s four rounds and you have to stay patient and focus on each shot to have a chance going into the final round.”
Another European Solheim Cup player, Caroline Hedwall, will make her first appearance in Xiamen. The 26-year-old from Helsingborg in Sweden, who collected the most recent of her five LET titles three years ago at the 2012 UNIQA Ladies Golf Open in Austria, is another keen worldwide traveller who commented: “It’s a lot of fun to see different parts of China. I went to Beijing, Shanghai and Sanya before. It’s a great hotel and golf course and I’m really enjoying my stay so far. I’m kind of struggling this season, but hopefully I can play well here. My game is good so hopefully I can compete for the title, but I won’t set high goals.”
The defending champion Ssu-Chia Cheng, from nearby Chinese Taipei, won the title by three strokes last year as a 17-year-old amateur and has since turned professional.
At a press conference on Wednesday, she said: “The win indeed changed my career. This was my first trip to China and also my first time playing in a Ladies European Tour event.”
Now in her rookie year on the Ladies European Tour, Cheng is enjoying moderate success. She is currently ranked 21st on the order of merit and third on the rookie standings having made cuts, including in two Majors at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and Evian Championship, with a season best tie for 6th at the Volvik Ladies Masters.
“I’m very happy coming back to Xiamen. The course has not changed much and I still feel comfortable. I will not think about being the defending champion and I won’t set a goal,” she said.
The other leading names in the tournament include this year’s LET winners Nicole Broch Larsen from Denmark (Helsingborg Open), England’s Hannah Burke (Tipsport Golf Masters), Australian Rebecca Artis (Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open) and Beth Allen of the United States (ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters).
They are joined by the leading two rookie professionals who are both in the top 20 on the LET Order of Merit: Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Emily Kristine Pedersen from Denmark, who finished second a fortnight ago at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France.