Forget the muckle stand they had behind the first tee at last year’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in France. That may have accommodated 6,500 fans, but it wasn’t a patch for a variety of reasons on the one for the same event four years earlier at Gleneagles. And, judging by Catriona Matthew’s “wow” reaction, Scotland has delivered again with that opening-tee arena for this week’s Solheim Cup at the Perthshire venue.
Anyone who was there on the opening morning of the 2014 Ryder Cup still talk about it. Minutes before the players appeared on the first tee to get the eagerly-anticipated event underway, the sun climbed above the Ochil Hills and created a view to behold down towards Glen Devon. The weather was fantastic over the three days, playing its part in the event being a resounding success overall.
Mother Nature may have delivered a wet start this time and the remnants of Storm Dorian could be a factor on Wednesday. But, by the look of it, we could get lucky again with the weather as Scotland steps back into the golfing spotlight in particular and also draws wider attention as is always the case with big team events.
A week ago, almost 80,000 tickets had already been sold for the third Solheim Cup staging in Scotland after matches at Dalmahoy and Loch Lomond in 1992 and 2000 respectively.
It will set a new attendance record for the biennial match on this side of the Atlantic and will also be the UK’s best-attended women’s golf event. No wonder people involved in delivering what is arguably Scotland’s biggest sporting event of the year are a tad excited about the week ahead.
“Anyone who sees the size and scale of the infrastructure around the 2019 Solheim Cup will be left in no doubt that this is a major international sporting event,” said Paul Bush, director of events at Visit Scotland. “Having hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup here just five years ago, we were determined to deliver a similar infrastructure and I think people will be blown away with what we have achieved here.
“The atmosphere on the first tee will be electric and unlike anything many will have seen at a golf event before. As well as being a world-class sporting spectacle, the event will be a fully accessible family day out and that’s something we’re hugely proud of. I can’t wait to get started and to further showcase Scotland’s credentials as one of the world’s leading event destinations.”
In what ended up as a straight fight, Scotland was given the nod ahead of Sweden to stage this event after the two countries were short-listed by the Ladies European Tour from an initial 10 countries from all over Europe. That decision was announced just under four years ago and the intervening period has been spent coming up with a plan to deliver something special for players and fans alike.
“We are very proud of our role in delivering what we believe will be a spectacular event, in keeping with the remit we were set by Visit Scotland – to make this the best Solheim Cup to date,” said Ross Hallett, IMG’s executive tournament director. “Planning started more than four years ago with a team that has grown to more than 50, utilising expertise from our global resources. We are extremely proud to play a key role in the event and are excited about this week. Having focussed on the three pillars of experience, equality and innovation, I have no doubt that we will deliver both a memorable and world-class event for Scotland.”
Europe won both of those previous encounters on Scottish soil and now Matthew is aiming to keep that run going. Rarely can an honour have been more deserving in someone’s home country. The North Berwick woman has been an amazing ambassador for Scottish golf around the world over the past 30-odd years. Her Women’s British Open win in 2009 a few weeks after giving birth to her second daughter will forever be remembered in the game, as will her part in three Solheim Cup successes in nine playing appearances in the event.
Having first come across her when she was still in the amateur ranks, I count myself lucky to have reported on Matthew’s glittering career. She’ll have nothing but respect from her players and don’t worry about her being the quiet type. What’s more important when it comes to this event is bringing bags of experience and a winning mentality to the role.
Roll on Friday morning.