LONDON (Reuters) - Gwladys Nocera has scooped up 14 wins on the Ladies European Tour (LET) but she would trade them all for one victory in the jewel of the crown tournament for European golfers, the British Open.
The 40-year-old Frenchwoman is in the twilight of her career and would happily hang up her spikes if she finally managed to achieve a childhood ambition by landing a breakthrough major championship triumph.
“Time is running out,” Nocera told Reuters in an interview held at the European Masters at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club on the outskirts of London.
“My dream as a young player was to win the British Open, it’s the best tournament. The other majors are in the U.S. and they don’t feel the same.
“I’ve probably got two more chances this year and next ... after that I’ll be done.”
Asked if she would swap all her wins for one in the British Open, Nocera replied: “Well, that’s where golf was born so it would make sense”.
The number one player on Europe’s Solheim Cup points table and the LET’s order of merit saluted the three golfers who did most to shape her dreams.
“I watched a lot of British Opens when I was a kid and I liked Seve Ballesteros, he used to light up the whole tournament,” said Nocera, breaking into a wide smile at the mention of the swashbuckling five-times major champion.
“Laura Davies was also one of my inspirations,” she added of the Briton who has collected a record 45 LET victories.
“When I play with her today I still feel everything she did for me, and she has also given a great deal to the spectators.
“Marie-Laure De Lorenzi was another inspiration,” said Nocera of her fellow Frenchwoman who is an honorary life member of the LET after winning 19 times on the tour.
“Laura, Marie-Laure and Seve were all so important for me.”
Nocera loves playing golf as much as she ever did but the years of constant globe-trotting are beginning to take a toll on the triple Solheim Cup player.
“I’m starting to feel a bit tired of all the traveling I do,” she said. “The washing, the ironing and everything that goes on between tournaments is starting to be a bit of a chore.”
If Nocera’s British Open dream goes unfulfilled, do not be too surprised if she signs off from the sport soon after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro where golf will return to the Games program for the first time in 112 years.
“When I wake up in the morning ... I think that would be a good way to finish, to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal for France,” she said.
“Let’s say it would be the beginning of the end of my career. I would be so proud to represent my country in Brazil.”
Nocera’s more immediate thoughts, however, are focused on regaining full fitness in time for the Solheim Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup, in Germany in September after she suffered a nasty accident two and a half months ago.
“I hurt myself in mid-April. I injured my ankle getting out of a golf buggy,” she explained.
“It’s been hard getting back but I worked really hard outside last week. I did a lot of running and stability work and worked on my back.
“The ankle injury led to some problems with my back but I’m starting to feel much better. I’m probably 80 percent fit now and I’ll be 100 percent again soon.”
Editing by Ed Osmond