Catriona Matthew, Europe’s re-appointed Solheim Cup captain, has thrown down the gauntlet to her fellow Saltire-bearers in the women’s game after this year’s event at Gleneagles was the first without a Scottish player.
Ever since Dale Reid and Pam Wright teed up in the inaugural match at Lake Nona in 1990, the European team had included at least one Scottish representative, Matthew having been the main flag flyer but joined by Kathryn Imrie, Janice Moodie and Mhairi McKay.
In 2003, at Barseback in Sweden, a record three Scots were in a winning home team under Catrin Nilsmark after McKay qualified automatically and both Matthew and Moodie earned captain’s picks.
Carly Booth’s return to winning ways on the Ladies European Tour as she triumphed in the Tipsports Czech Ladies Open in August came too late to earn one of Matthew’s four wildcards for the match on Scottish soil in September.
However, the European captain is hoping Booth, Scotland’s top-ranked player, 236th in the Rolex World Rankings, can use that success as a springboard to get in the mix for the 2021 match, at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Gemma Dryburgh, who has played on the LPGA Tour for the last two seasons and narrowly missed out on securing her card again for the 2020 campaign, is another player the European captain will hope can rise to the challenge.
“It would be great to see a Scot in the team,” said Matthew, who has been re-appointed by the LET after leading Europe to a dramatic last-gasp win over the hat-trick seeking Americans in Perthshire. “I think this one was the first time we didn’t have a Scot playing on the team and it would be great. Two years is a long time, so it gives them time to make a push. Carly started playing well in the summer and it’s a level playing field for everyone again.”
Matthew, the long-time Scottish No 1, has dropped below both Booth and Dryburgh in the rankings and revealed earlier this year that she has now called time on her LPGA career. So, what does the future hold for the major winner from a playing point of view?
“I’m still going to play LET events,” she said. “It probably wouldn’t be a full schedule, but I’m still going to play a fair few. I will play a couple of seniors events in the States. I was always intending playing next year on the LET, but this (re-appointment as captain) will probably make me play perhaps a couple more to keep me in touch with the players and see them playing.”
Can she still win at the top level and add to her haul of 11 professional victories worldwide? “Absolutely,” replied the 50-year-old with a smile. “You never know.”
Even if she does, though, that achievement is unlikely to top that winning captaincy at Gleneagles, where Norwegian Suzann Pettersen, a somewhat controversial wildcard pick, held her nerve to hole a six-foot on the last green to seal victory.
“I kind of laugh to myself,” admitted Matthew as she recalled that week. “I get more people coming up in recognition from this and I laugh that I’ve not even hit a shot. I think it’s great. It just shows how much women’s sport in general is doing.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how many men have come up and said they loved it, which is great.”