Catriona Matthew looks certain to be handed the honour of captaining Europe in a Solheim Cup on Scottish soil after being picked by Annika Sorenstam to assist the Swede for next year’s match in America.
Based on the consistent form that has just earned Matthew a place in Team GB for the upcoming Olympics in Rio, the 46-year-old could secure a ninth playing appearance in the contest at at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa.
Even if that achievement is beyond her, though, Matthew’s experience will be put to good use by Sorenstam after the former world No 1 selected the North Berwick woman as her vice captain for the biennial contest’s next staging.
The appointment clearly points to Matthew being groomed for the captaincy in 2019, when the event will be staged at Gleneagles as it becomes the third Scottish venue after Dalmahoy (1992) and Loch Lomond (2000) to host a Solheim Cup.
“I’m thrilled as it’s very exciting,” said the 2009 Women’s British Open champion of her appointment, which was announced on the eve of her spearheading the home contingent in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open starting today at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire. “Annika asked me at the KPMG event about four or five weeks ago, so I’ve been keeping it quiet.
“Annika has been a good friend of mine since our amateur days and I’ve played with her in the Solheim Cup. It’s my favourite week every two years, so to be part of it and see behind the scenes will be good.”
The pair were team-mates, in fact, in four matches - in 1998, 2003, 2005 and 2007 - and formed a successful partnership, winning a combined total of two foursomes and one fourball match together. “Catriona is a long-time friend and well-respected veteran of the game,” said Sorenstam. “As a major winner who has competed in numerous Solheim Cups, I’m very excited to welcome her to our team.
“She will be a tremendous asset, thanks not only to her experience playing the biggest events, but also because she is currently active on both the LPGA and the LET.”
That active career is why Matthew is refusing to rule out the possibility of one last hurrah as a player, something she definitely wouldn’t even consider if she is the captain at Gleneagles.
“We spoke about that,” she admitted of being a playing vice captain next year. “I think Juli was a playing vice captain in Ireland. I’ll see how I’m playing next year. I’d love to play and be vice captain at the same time.”
And 2019? “Obviously I’ll have to focus on this one first. But, if I do put my name forward for the captaincy at Gleneagles, it would be a great help to be vice,” she admitted. And the possibility of being a playing captain then? “It might be a step too far,” she confessed. “Three, four years? That’s a long way in the distance. Anyway, you couldn’t possibly be a playing captain as there is far too much involved.”
Serving as both vice captain and captain would be a fitting reward for a stellar Solheim Cup career, which has included the Scot holing the winning putt at Matthew’s many highlights from the event include holing the winning putt at Barsebäck in Sweden in 2003 then, a decade later, securing the half point that clinched Europe’s first victory on US soil in Denver.
“You never think you’ll get to where you are,” said Matthew, reflecting on her introduction to the event in her native Lothians. “I remember watching at Dalmahoy in the rain and Europe won it. I would never have imagined then that I’d play in eight and now be a vice captain. You dream of doing these things, but you never quite imagine it will happen.”
Like competing in the Olympics in a team that also includes Charley Hull, Danny Willett and Justin Rose. “I hope the men not going won’t lead to golf coming out of the Games,” said the Scot of the spate of call-offs for Rio. “The ladies are supporting it, so hopefully we can stay in it.”