By Lewine Mair
Last month Catriona Matthew was appointed European captain for the next Solheim Cup match at Gleneagles in 2019, and nobody can deny that the Scottish player is the right woman for the job.
If there was ever a time when Scottish male golfers stopped talking of their own on-course feats, it was during this year’s Solheim Cup at Des Moines in Illinois. That was the week when the now 48-year-old Catriona Matthew made a last-minute switch from one of Annika Sorenstam’s vice-captains to a player who would win more individual points than anyone in the European team other than Anna Nordqvist.
Matthew had two points in the bag at the end of her three starts in the foursomes and the four balls. She had a tough singles ahead - against Stacy Lewis - and everyone,including the player herself, feared the worst when she was three down after ten.
At that point, she gave herself a quiet talking to. “I reminded myself that since this was almost certainly my last chance to win a point in the Solheim Cup, I needed to buck up my ideas.”
To no-one’s great surprise, she did, winning her third point of the contest on the home green. Matthew first heard that her Solheim Cup role might be changed on the Sunday before the off. Suzann Pettersen had been out for a run on the Saturday when a recurring back injury started to play up. Pettersen rang Sorenstam at once to warn her that there was a problem - andSorenstam promptly apprised Matthew of the situation.
Not that Sorenstam was as concerned as she might have been. She thanked her lucky stars that she had a player as good as Matthew waiting in the wings. In truth, she had earlier come within the proverbial whisker of handing her one of her four wild cards.
For some time, Catronia had been pencilled in as the captain for 2019 and confirmation came - a year early - on the 21 September. The job is 100% right for her, for Scotland, and for the match itself.
There were those who had suggested that the Ladies European Tour might want to give the matter second thoughts when she never fulfilled her vice-captaincy brief at Des Moines. However, as she herself said on the day of the announcement, she had had months of working with Sorenstam in the months leading up to the contest.
Over the next two years, she will carry on playing whilst having the additional interest of getting to know the latest in up-and-coming Europeans. It goes without saying that she is thrilled at the prospect of being at the helm of what she call, “The biggest event in women’s golf, if not in women’s sport.”
Above all, Catronia is a strong character and a sound one. She never makes rash decisions but, at the same time, she never hesitates to speak out on whatever the subject of the moment might be.
When, for example, Muirfield voted against taking women members in 2016, she said at once that the members were way out of sync with the times. Again, she made clear her approval when that decision was revoked at the start of this year. (Now, the chances are that the club will make her their first honorary member sooner rather than later - and that plenty of the members will be there to support her at Gleneagles in 2019.)
Matthew also got across that the LET needed to act with a certain urgency when they were wondering what to do with Ivan Khodobasksh, the CEO who was at the helm as the women lost one tournament too many from their ’17 schedule. She encouraged her sister players to do something about it instead of speaking in whispers and simply hoping for the best.
It's Never Too Early To Book
After a successful 15th edition of the Solheim Cup in Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa, which saw an inspired USA team retain their trophy by 16 ½ to 11 ½ points, all eyes have now turned to focus on the next European edition to be played on the renowned PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles in Scotland.
Scotland’s staging of the 2019 Solheim Cup from 11-15 September is being led by the EventScotland team within VisitScotland’s events directorate.
Paul Bush, Director of Events at VisitScotland, said: “A high bar has been set by the 2017 Solheim Cup in Des Moines and we are all relishing the challenge of taking the 2019 Solheim Cup to an even higher level. We have a strong track record of hosting and enhancing major events in Scotland and we look forward to making the Solheim Cup the must-attend sporting event of 2019.''
''It is important to us that this is seen as a bucket-list event and we want everyone to consider attending, regardless of whether they are an ardent golf fan or a family who may have never considered a golf event as a day out before.”
The week will begin with the PING Junior Solheim Cup taking place at Gleneagles with the participants made to feel an important part of the main event. A variety of packages and tickets, starting from £10, are now available at www.SolheimCup2019.com
The above is an extract from the latest issue of Women & Golf magazine, on sale Monday 16 October. Never miss an issue click here to subscribe and enjoy W&G delivered to your door.