Catriona Matthew would love to see men and women battling it out for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open titles at the same time, citing top tennis events as an example of how that set up can work successfully in sport.
For the third year in a row, the Scottish Opens are being held at the same venue this summer as The Renaissance Club follows Dundonald Links and Gullane in hosting top players from both genders a few weeks apart.
That change has coincided with the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour staging separate events, the Trophee Hassan II and the Lalla Meryem Cup, at the same time on neighbouring courses at the same venue in Morocco.
As part of golf’s changing face, the Vic Open in Australia earlier this year involved men and women playing alongside each other as separate tournaments were played side by side, with the prize pool being split equally between men and women in a ground-breaking initiative.
“I would like to see it,” said Matthew, who played in that event at the 13th Beach Golf Club, where David Law claimed the men’s title, in reply to being asked if she would like to see the same thing happening with the Scottish Opens. “I think you need two golf courses [at the same venue]. Anywhere where there are two golf courses, it is possible.
“You want variety, so you wouldn’t want that every week. But to have it three times a year would be great, just to have the men and ladies mingling. You see how that works in tennis with the majors, where the men and ladies are playing at the same time.”
Asked if there might be a danger of the women’s event being overshadowed in such a set up, the two-time Ladies Scottish Open winner added: “Does that happen in tennis? I don’t know. I suppose it just depends on the players and the characters at each event. Perhaps to start with it might do, but hopefully that would evolve and grow.”
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, a two-time major winner, is set to defend her title at The Renaissance Club from 8-11 August – the event is being staged a week later this year – with reigning Women’s British Open champion Georgia Hall also having confirmed her appearance on the East Lothian coast.
Matthew, who claimed both her victories next door at Archerfield Links, will spearhead a home challenge that will also include Michele Thomson, Kelsey Macdonald and Pamela Pretswell Asher, who will be making her return after a spell on the sidelines following the birth of her first child.
“I’ve played here a couple of times since it opened,” said Matthew, who lives in nearby North Berwick, of this year’s new venue for an event that is co-sanctioned with the LPGA. “It’s nice. I’ve played the new holes once and you get some great views on those ones. It will be in fantastic shape so I’m looking forward to it. It’s always nice when it’s close to home.
“It’s just five minutes along the road. It makes it a bit strange, really. In a way, it is easier playing away from home because you have your routine of what you do when you’re at a golf tournament. But it will be nice being at home and the kids can come and watch. It’s different.”
Matthew is sitting out this week’s US Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston, having had to settle for an alternate spot in the European sectional qualifier last month. It is only the second time she has missed the USGA event since 1996, but the 49-year-old will be keeping a close eye on the action in South Carolina wearing her Solheim Cup captain’s hat.
“It’s getting closer all the time,” she said, smiling, of the clash with the Americans at Gleneagles in September. “We had great results last week, with Bronte [Law] winning and Madelene [Sagstrom] second.” Referring to the Pure Silk Championship on the LPGA Tour, she added: “I think there were six Europeans in the top 20. Hopefully, they’re not peaking too soon.
“It was great to see Bronte win. She was second in San Francisco and then won there last week. She is certainly someone I had been watching. She went to the European Tour School in the winter to make sure she was eligible, so she’s very much on the radar.”
Matthew’s team for the match in Perthshire will be announced on the Monday after the ASI Ladies Scottish Open. “Right now, you’d have to say the chances are pretty slim,” she admitted of the possibility of a Scot making the line-up. “Someone would have to have a really big summer. There are plenty of points available and you have the majors coming up, and the Scottish and the Evian. There are a lot of ranking points there.”