The Deloitte Ladies Open will be particularly special for Marieke Nivard from the Netherlands. Not only is she playing in her home tournament at Golfclub Broekpolder near Rotterdam but she has also come full circle since finishing as the leading amateur at Eindhoven in 2008.
That year, Tania Elosegui of Spain took the title and four years on, Nivard will play alongside her and Becky Brewerton in one of the marquee groups, which she finds particularly pleasing.
“I will play with Tania for the first two rounds. When I played at the Dutch Open as an amateur she won the tournament and I was the leading amateur so it was a special moment. I still have the picture with her where she has the trophy. Now I am playing with her as a professional in the tournament so it makes it special for me,” Nivard said.
The 21-year-old from Eindhoven is one of nine Dutch players in the tournament field and hopes that large galleries will turn out to applaud the home players as in recent years.
Now in her second season as a member of the Ladies European Tour, Nivard’s game has improved considerably since last year, when she won twice on the LET Access Series, at the Trophee Preven’s and the Azores Ladies Open.
On account of her finishing first on the LETAS order of merit, she earned her Ladies European Tour card for the 2012 season and her results this year have been consistently improving.
In addition to tying for 5th twice on the LETAS, she has made every cut in four appearances on the Ladies European Tour, in China, Morocco and Turkey, with a season-best tie for 26th in Germany last week.
“I always take small steps so last year, coming to the European Tour from amateur golf was just a big step for me so it was good that I had the Access Series and could develop myself a little better. This year I think I’m ready to play well on the European Tour and it still takes time but I’m getting there,” she said.
“I made all my cuts this year and played a little better every tournament, so I’m getting there. I know I need to be patient.”
Nivard made five straight birdies during her third round in Germany and said it could have been even better.
“I once played six under in my last five holes and you are always looking for that special focus or momentum but you can’t tell yourself to be there because you just do what you always do and then it either happens or it doesn’t and this time it happened. You don’t really know what happens when you do it: you just play,” she said.
Nivard gained experience through the LETAS and would recommend other young players to use the tour as a springboard to success.
“I’m a great believer in playing as much as you can just to get experience, especially when you are young as you have so many years to go. I played five weeks in a row and I think I will be totally broken after the last week but I think I should play as many tournaments as I can and also still play on the Access Series when we have time off to develop myself and my game. I would always recommend it to other players but everyone is different,” she said.
Apart from the competitive experience, she said playing on the LETAS helped to adjust to the nomadic lifestyle: “Travelling by myself, not always as a team, without my coaches: just growing up, really. It doesn’t have anything to do with my game. I know what I need to do, how I need to practise, when I need to rest, when I don’t need to rest. It’s just growing up, I think.”
Now older and wiser, Nivard has much loftier goals. After missing the cut last year at Broekpolder, she hopes to finish in the top-20.
“Normally I set the goal to finish in the top 30 but for this week I say top 20 because you’re at home and want to play your best. I think it’s possible because it’s not the strongest field of the year. Top 20 and I’d be happy,” she said.
She feels that the scores will be lower than last year, when Melissa Reid finished with a three-round total of 213, three under par, after rounds of 71, 72 and 70, on account of recent rainfall.
“It plays very different than last year and I think it will be easier to score if the greens are okay because they are so soft. I hope they are going to be okay on Sunday and it doesn’t get too bumpy.
“I think last year was maybe three under. I think it was nine under two years back. I think it’s going to be eight under this week. It’s easier because you can just hit it at the flag and it will stop. I’m not sure what the weather is going to do. If we have weather delays it might be different,” she said.
Nivard’s brother, Michiel, could be her secret weapon as he is caddying for the tournament. “He used to play and had more talent than me but I was working harder. Now he studies and does other things but I kept on playing. He is one and a half years older than me. He’s done that before and I know it works well. I have some of my coaches watching which is important for them to see me play.”
Nivard is currently 59th on the Ladies European Tour order of merit and the nearest rival to current European No.1 Christel Boeljon from her country.
Although Boeljon is the favourite, Nivard will be feeling confident after recent successes and will be buoyed by the support of the home galleries, along with fellow professionals Dewi-Claire Schreefel, Sandra Eggermont, Marjet van der Garraff, Chrisje de Vries and Kyra van Leeuwen, as well as Karlijn Zaanen and Tessa de Bruijn, the two Dutch amateurs in the field.