Catriona Matthew last night threw her hat into the ring to round off a glittering Solheim Cup career by captaining Europe on Scottish soil after Gleneagles was awarded the 2019 clash against the Americans.
The Perthshire venue will be back in the golfing spotlight just five years after staging the 2014 Ryder Cup after Scotland got the nod over Sweden in a straight fight for the next encounter on this side of the Atlantic.
It is fantastic news. It will be a great boost for women’s golf in ScotlandCatriona Matthew
It will be the third time the biennial event has been staged in this country – Dalmahoy having hosted Europe’s first home match in 1992 before the tournament was held at Loch Lomond eight years later.
Matthew wasn’t involved in either of those encounters, having been controversially overlooked by fellow Scot Dale Reid for the second one, but the eight-times Solheim Cup player would seem to be an obvious choice for the 2019 captaincy, especially as she will be close to turning 50 when that comes around.
She described Gleneagles getting the event as “fantastic news” and said it will be a “great boost for women’s golf in Scotland”.
Asked if it was too early for her to be thinking about getting the chance to be Europe’s captain on home soil, Scotland’s most recent major winner added: “Not at all, I would be honoured and would love to do it. It would be the perfect time.”
The North Berwick woman also has an association with Gleneagles, having landed the McDonald’s WPGA Championship on the King’s Course in 1998, when she finished five shots in front of her closest challengers, England’s Laura Davies and Helen Alfredsson from Sweden.
While quietly confident on the back of last September’s Ryder Cup – the first to be held in the game’s cradle since 1972 – proving such an outstanding success in every aspect, EventScotland officials knew it was going to take a special bid to beat Sweden, which had nominated Bro Hof Slott near Stockholm as its chosen venue and was believed to have been lining up Annika Sorenstam, the former world No 1, for the captaincy.
Both venues were visited by a delegation from the Ladies European Tour during the final phase of the selection process after the two countries were short-listed from an initial ten-strong list.
“I want to congratulate the Scotland bid team for their work,” said Ivan Khodabakhsh, chief executive of the Ladies European Tour. “It was an extremely close decision and our heartfelt thanks go to our friends from Sweden for their hugely impressive bid. The Bro Hof Slott Golf Club is one of Europe’s very finest courses and we look forward to working with them in the future.
“The competitive nature of the bidding process for the 2019 event is testimony to the growth in interest in women’s professional golf and women’s sport in general.
“The Solheim Cup has grown to be the biggest event in the women’s game, delivering outstanding value to its partners at a local, national and international level.”
Scotland’s success in securing the biggest team event in women’s golf for a third time comes hot on the heels of a new unified body, Scottish Golf, being formed to run the amateur game in the country. It also coincides with a new initiative aimed at encouraging more women to take up the sport.
“This is tremendous news, not only for golf tourism and events in Scotland but for Scotland as a whole,” said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the announcement.
“As a nation we take a huge amount of pride in welcoming major events to our country and in women’s golf they don’t come any bigger than the Solheim Cup.
“The outstanding success of 2014 still looms large in the memory and I am delighted that Gleneagles and Scotland will once again play host to a major international team golf event. It will help cement Scotland’s reputation as the home of golf and the perfect stage for major golf events and help inspire a new generation of children to take up the game invented in their home country.”
Having watched Stephen Gallacher experience the thrill of playing in the Ryder Cup on Scottish soil, the likes of Kylie Walker, Pamela Pretswell, Sally Watson and Carly Booth will now be licking their lips at the prospect of doing likewise in the women’s equivalent.
“All the girls will be really happy,” said Pretswell, who is the highest-ranked Scot on this season’s Ladies European Tour. “It’s a great boost not only for Gleneagles but Scottish golf overall, especially on the back of the merger of the Scottish Golf Union and the Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association. For all the Scottish girls, it gives us that little bit more motivation to try and qualify for the European team on home soil in 2019.”
John A Solheim, the chairman and chief executiver of golf equipment manufacturer Ping, said he was “excited” about the prospect of the event returning to Scotland. He added: “Gleneagles is certainly one of the great venues in golf and will provide a wonderful experience for all. I’m sure that the members of the 2019 Solheim Cup teams will be up to meeting the challenges of this exceptional golf course [the PGA Centenary].”
Since last year’s Ryder Cup, Gleneagles has been sold by drinks company Diageo to private investment company Ennismore. The new owners were keen to build on the success of last September’s event and Bernard Murphy, the hotel’s managing director, is delighted the focus of the golfing world will be back on the five-star resort in a few years’ time.
“We are extremely proud to be chosen as the host venue for the 2019 Solheim Cup,” he said. “Gleneagles has a great history of holding major international events and we are delighted to be able to add the Solheim Cup to that list. We look forward to welcoming the teams and spectators from both sides in 2019 to take part in what we are sure will be yet another memorable event.”