Catriona Matthew, who ended up in hospital in Brazil after being bitten by mosquitoes, has joined the growing chorus of concern over the threat of the Zika virus at this summer’s Olympics.
The issue will not stop Matthew herself competing in the Games if, as now seems likely, she secures a place in Team GB as golf makes its return to the event after an absence of more than 100 years.
At 46 and with no plans to add to a family of two daughters – nine-year-old Katie and Sophie, who is seven – the North Berwick woman isn’t worried personally about the threat.
However, she sympathises with younger players who are thinking about starting families after US health officials concluded that infections by the mosquito-borne Zika virus in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a birth defect that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.
“I’m not going to have any more children so, in that respect, I’m not worried,” said Matthew. “But it is still definitely a concern, certainly for some of the younger ones, some who are hoping to have families soon. If I was at that stage of my life, I would probably seriously consider not going.”
Jason Day, the men’s world No 1, said he’d be making an “educated decision” along with his wife, Ellie, about competing in Rio as they consider having a third child. “I’ve spoken to a few who are hoping to have children soon, and they are certainly concerned,” added Matthew. “With new reports coming out, you don’t know quite who to believe and it will be interesting to see what develops over the coming weeks. I haven’t spoken to my doctor. It seems to be more of a worry for people who want to have families.”
Matthew, who will make her only appearance on home soil this year in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald Links on 22-24 July, was five months pregnant with Sophie when she won the inaugural HSBC Brasil Cup, an unofficial LPGA Tour event, by five shots in 2009. Her return to defend the title 12 months later was less enjoyable. “I actually ended up in hospital with bug bites,” she recalled. “That was at a different time of year, I think it was February. They say that, at this time of year, it’s not quite so bad. But, if I make the Olympics, I would probably wear long sleeves and trousers to protect myself.”
On the back of a top-15 finish in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Seattle on Sunday, Matthew jumped nine spots to 66th in the world rankings while Holly Clyburn, her closest challenger in the battle to join Charley Hull in Team GB, dropped six places to 102nd. It will take something out of the ordinary from either Clyburn, Melissa Reid or Jodi Ewart Shadoff before the cut-off after the US Women’s Open on 10 July to prevent Matthew from adding Olympian to major champion and eight-time Solheim Cup player on her CV. “My result on Sunday really helped me,” acknowledged Matthew, who, if she secures her spot, will be giving up a plush hotel room to soak up the atmosphere in the Games Village. “It is going to be my only chance to get into the Olympics, I imagine, considering where I am in my career, so I’m looking forward experiencing it all,” she said.