Martin Dempster: Gleneagles success has given women’s golf a fantastic opportunity

Hannah Darling starred in the Solheim Cup junior match at Gleneagles. Picture: WME IMG via Getty Images.
Hannah Darling starred in the Solheim Cup junior match at Gleneagles. Picture: WME IMG via Getty Images.
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I t seemed unlikely, but Medinah has indeed been matched. Like that 2014 Ryder Cup on the outskirts of Chicago, the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles provided final-day memories that will last a lifetime for those lucky to be there to 
witness it.

It was sport at its very best and good on golf for once again delivering a denouement that made headline news around the world, showcasing Scotland in all its splendour on a glorious afternoon in Perthshire in the process.

In an event that attracted a record 90,000 fans, the painful slow play from the opening two days, not to mention some wild windy weather on Saturday in particular, was cast aside as Catriona Matthew’s European team pulled off an astonishing victory on the PGA Centenary Course.

At Medinah, of course, Europe came from four points behind heading into the singles to come out on top, whereas it was all tied on this occasion and remained tight all the way through the deciding 12 head-to-head clashes.

Like Martin Kaymer with his winning putt then, though, it was gripping stuff as Suzann Pettersen, one of Matthew’s wildcard picks, held her nerve to convert a six-footer on the 18th with the final putt of the match after Bronte Law had delivered a point in the other key match down at the 17th seconds beforehand.

What a way for Pettersen to bow out in golf, having announced her retirement straight afterwards. What a week for Matthew, a fantastic ambassador for the Scottish game over the past 20 years, on home soil. What a week for women’s golf, even though it clearly has issues it needs to address and the sooner the better.

Both the R&A and Scottish Golf are investing a lot of time and money in the women’s game and Sunday in particular was exactly the sort of spectacle they have been looking for to really achieve some results in terms of increased participation and membership.

When Scottish Golf signed the R&A’s “Women in Golf Charter” last year, the percentage of female members in Scottish clubs was a paltry 13 per cent and it is unlikely that has changed significantly since then, though, in fairness, the landscape simply can’t be altered overnight.

What it needs is an event like the Solheim Cup to have given girls in particular a taste of the sport and to feel suitably inspired by players such as Pettersen, Bronte Law, Georgia Hall, Celine Boutier and, equally, the Korda sisters – Jessica and Nelly – in the American ranks.

Well done Hannah Darling in that respect, too. The 16-year-old from Broomieknowe was a real star in the junior match at Gleneagles, both in terms of her play and how her bubbly personality helped light up that event.

It wasn’t all positive and both the LET and LPGA really need to start getting to grips with slow play in regular events to try to stop it potentially ruining one of the sport’s great sporting spectacles going forward.

However, a third Solheim Cup success for Europe on Scottish soil has undoubtedly provided a golden opportunity for the women’s game at club level to really take off while, at the same time, the LET becoming a proper circuit again.