Catriona Matthew has Jack Nicklaus willing her on as the North Berwick woman seeks to emulate golf’s greatest player by landing a notable victory at the age of 46.
Nicklaus, who achieved the feat when he landed a sixth Masters win in 1986, took to Twitter to send Matthew a good-luck message after she arrived at the halfway stage of the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open sharing the lead in Adelaide.
“Hang in there and don’t give up, finish strong!” wrote the 18-time major winner on the social media site after seeing the Scot open with rounds of 67 and 69 at The Grange to sit alongside England’s Holly Clyburn on eight-under-par. “Everyone wrote me off at 46!”
Matthew, who is bidding to regain a title she won 20 years ago in landing a first professional victory, hasn’t let age get in the way so far in her glittering career and isn’t ready for that to happen just yet.
“I think that’s the beauty of golf, you know you can play, it doesn’t matter what your age is really as long as you can still hit the golf ball and get it in the hole,” said the 2009 British Women’s Open champion. “Age isn’t a barrier.”
Proving that to be the case, Matthew arrived at the halfway stage with a four-shot cushion over 18-year-old Lydia Ko, the world No 1 and defending champion. “I’m delighted,” admitted the Scot of her position, having illuminated her second circuit with an eagle at the par-5 first, her tenth.
“When I played my practice round on Tuesday, I thought it was a tricky course. Some of the fairways are quite generous but you’ve really got to try and hit the greens, and that’s what I’ve done the first few days.”
Clyburn, who helped Great Britain & Ireland win the Curtis Cup at Nairn in 2012, is one of Matthew’s main rivals for a spot in this summer’s Olympics in Brazil. Maintaining the form that has got her on to the LPGA Tour this year, the 25-year-old from Grimsby catapulted her into contention in this event with a 65 that was sparked by an eagle and three birdies in the first five holes.
Adding to the strong British challenge, Kylie Walker and Charley Hull were alongside Ko in joint-11th on four-under. Walker had an eagle-2 on her card for the second day running, the one at the 18th coming after she’d also achieved that feat at the 11th on Thursday.
“This one was with a 58-degree wedge - a nice way to finish my round!” declared Walker, who is excited about the final two rounds. “It’s great to see fellow Brits up at the top of the leaderboard and I’m looking forward to the weekend,” added the two-time LET winner.