Golf: Curtis Cup row rumbles on as Matthew accuses LGU of being ‘short-sighted’

CATRIONA Matthew is sticking by her stinging criticism of the Ladies Golf Union over its decision to drop Charley Hull, the world No 9, from the Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup squad after she pulled out of a forthcoming squad session at Nairn so that she could accept an invitation to play in the first professional women’s major of the year.

Speaking at Archerfield Links, where she will defend her title in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open in early May, Matthew questioned the importance of the three-day get-together at the Moray course, saying she felt as many as six spots in the eight-strong team to face the Americans there in June could already be filled.

“I think it is a bit short-sighted of the LGU,” said the former British Women’s Open champion of Hull, a 15-year-old from Woburn, losing her place in the 12-strong squad when she opted to accept an invitation to the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The two events don’t actually clash – the squad session is on 23-25 March and the Californian major takes place from 29 March-1 April – but Hull, who won both the English and Welsh Open Stroke-Play titles last year, wants to avoid being jet-lagged when she arrives in America.

John Petrie, chief executive of the English Golf Union, has urged the LGU to reconsider omitting Hull from its list of Curtis Cup contenders but Sarah Simpson, the head of golf operations at the St Andrews-based organisation, has insisted that won’t be happening due to the fact all the players in the squad signed an agreement about taking part in the trial.

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“When she [Hull] did that, she hadn’t received the invitation for the Kraft Nabisco,” added Matthew, who is adamant her game was enhanced when she played as an amateur in the Weetabix Women’s British Open in 1993 – the year she won both the British and Scottish titles.

“Playing with pros is a good learning experience for amateurs as you test yourself against the best. You pick up things like course strategy, so I think this is a good chance for Charley to play in a ladies’ major and get more experience for the Curtis Cup. I also can’t see how the team is being picked based on holding a trial over one weekend. Surely things like the Spanish Amateur and British Ladies will have been taken into account. I’m sure five or six will have been picked already.”

Lynn Kenny, first reserve for the 2004 Curtis Cup at Formby, and Carly Booth, one of four Scots in the GB&I side at St Andrews four years ago, also offered their views on the Hull situation as they joined Matthew to promote this year’s Ladies Scottish Open, which takes place on 3-5 May in East Lothian and will feature an increased field of 70 players. “It is a tricky one as the LGU has a duty to its members to get the best team possible for the Curtis Cup, so I can understand its point of view,” commented Kenny. “But it’s a shame that Charley has to choose as it’s a dream for a pro, never mind an amateur, to play in a major.

“It’s unfortunate timing and hopefully commonsense will prevail as it’s a training weekend. I feel sorry for Charley having all the media attention on her in a kind of good guy v bad guy way. If she is good enough to be world No 9, that tells you something.”

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Booth, who revealed she hadn’t been asked to sign anything by the LGU for the 2008 match, echoed Matthew in feeling too much importance was being placed on the trial. “There’s still time for the players to bond when they get to the venue for the match and for the captain to work out pairings,” she said.

Matthew, who won by ten shots last year, has opted to defend her Scottish title instead of playing in an unofficial LPGA Tour event in Brazil. “I ended up in hospital when I played there last year so wasn’t going back, but, at the same time, playing at home is special,” said the North Berwick player.