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Europe's number one sets Major goal for 2009

By Tim Maitland

Reigning Ladies European Tour number one and 2008 LET Player of the Year Gwladys Nocera has revealed she's set herself a target to win a Major in 2009.

The Frenchwoman, who earned her place at next month's HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore when she won her tour's Money List thanks to five victories and four other top-three finishes last year, has made it her aim this season to lift one of female golf's holy grails.

"That's what is driving me; when I wake up in the morning I know why I'm waking up, I know why I'm going for a run, I know why, when I'm hitting balls, I have to stay and keep hitting until I get better," said Nocera, who has already franked her form for this year by winning the New Zealand Women's Open in a howling gale at the beginning of February.

"It helps me work more. For me it's good. I have to set myself some high goals."

The 33-year-old's habit of setting herself lofty targets worked well for her last year when, having finished third and second in the previous campaigns, she finally topped the money list.

"I was proud because it's really hard to set your goals AND achieve them. To set a goal is easy - it's just talk - but to be able to achieve it is big," she explained.

"I had set up my goal to be number one and it was hard when Helen Alfredsson won the Evian Masters, because she won so much money there it left me far behind. I had to win three more tournaments to pass her."

Nocera's second trip to Singapore - she says she enjoyed her previous visit for the 2005 Samsung Ladies Masters at the Laguna National (just across the East Coast Parkway from Tanah Merah), even though she missed the cut - won't see her meet her season's goal, but she's quick to agree that a victory would come pretty close.

"It's really big! I'm really proud to be able to play this tournament and I'm really excited about going there. It's big and I'm sure the course will be set up for this field. I'm sure it will be long with tough greens. I'm sending my caddie early to arrive before me so he can take all the notes about the course and my coach will be coming with me so we can work together and get ready. I'm taking it very seriously. I have to!" she exclaimed.

"Life is about earning whatever you get and finishing number one (in Europe) I earned this place and I hope I will represent the Ladies European Tour well."

The HSBC Women's Champions, which draws together tournament winners and money list champions like Nocera from all over the world, is one of only three LPGA events the Frenchwoman will play this year. The others - The Kraft Nabisco Championship and the US Women's Open - are Majors.

However, Nocera has no wish to sacrifice the life she enjoys from her base in Switzerland and aim even higher and have atilt at Lorena Ochoa's throne because it would mean play-full time in the States.

"I want to be really good, but I know my limits. My goal is not to be number one in the world. I want to win a Major, but being number one is not something that is driving me. I know winning a Major is possible and I know being number one is not possible."

"It's too much work. If I was 20 years old I would probably say that. I would probably say I would go to the US and play all the tournaments and get up the world rankings and try and be number one. I want to stay in Europe and there's no way you can be world number one if you stay in Europe. I don't know… it's just not me."

Nocera concedes it's possible that her philosophical outlook on her life might be related to miraculously escaping death in a shooting accident at the age of 16 - a gun her grandfather was showing her fired a bullet straight through her abdomen and out of her back somehow missing all her organs - together with the way she had to struggle to make ends meet in her early twenties.

"I now what it is to struggle and to have no money in your pocket and to live in such a tiny place that you can't have a bedroom and you just have a convertible couch; I know what that is. I don't what that anymore. I want a decent life and to be happy."

A graduate in international business from the University of New Mexico where she went on a golf scholarship, Nocera still had to work her way through college, even giving up the sport in her final year as her studies and the need for income took up all her time. Unable to afford to turn pro and join the Futures Tour as she planned, she returned to France where she knew she had sponsors willing to support her amateur career. She only turned professional at the age of 27, which in the current currency of women's golf is like starting work for the first time when you hit 65. Having started from nothing, with nothing in her pocket, Nocera is unwilling to turn her back on the tour the allowed her to earn a healthy living from the game.

"Of course it's less money than in the US, but I still enjoy myself and I love what I'm doing. I think if I'm in the US I won't be that happy and I won't be so good. I don't want to go to the US just because I have to and then destroy myself. That's not the point. I want to be happy. I'm happy in Europe. I have a cool caddie, I have my friends, I have my family. I can't ask for more really. Money is not life. Money is good as long as you have enough to have a decent life. Having a nice car or a really nice car doesn't matter to me. Four wheels, an engine… of course I like nice cars and I have a nice one, but it's not what I'm after.

"What is annoying is when people say that I am making a mistake. If they want to say I should go, it's their right to think it, but they shouldn't tell me it's a mistake if I don't. A lot of people are hard on me because I say I'm not going, but it's my life and I'm proud of living my life the way I want. That's a privilege."

Topics: Player Feature, Nocera, Gwladys

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