So much for being the Great Britain “underdogs”. Michele Thomson and Megan MacLaren walked away with two medals – one silver and one bronze – from the inaugural European Golf Team Championships at Gleneagles. Add in picking up £31,285 each for those two successes and it was a week to remember for the personable pair.
“We are absolutely delighted with two medals,” said Thomson, a 30-year-old Aberdonian, after the third-string home duo had followed up securing silver medals in tandem with Connor Syme and Liam Johnston in Saturday’s historic mixed event by claiming bronze in the women’s tournament.
Swedish duo Cajsa Persson and Linda Wessbeg claimed gold in that after beatingFrench pair Justine Dreher and Manon Molle in a play-off while Spain 1, represented by Scott Fernandez, pictured, whose grandmother was from Glasgow, and Pedro Oriol denied Iceland’s Birgir Hafthorsson and Axel Boasson, Saturday’s winners along with Olafia Kristinsdottir and Vladis Thora Jonsdottir, a second gold in the men’s event.
On a dreich day in Perthshire – the hardy souls who braved almost non-stop rain all deserved medals, to be honest – Thomson and MacLaren recovered from being two down after six to beat the top-ranked home pair, Georgia Hall, the newly-crowned British Women’s Open champion, and Laura Davies, runaway winner of the recent US Senior Women’s Open, by 3&1 over the PGA Centenary Course.
“Pure misery. It was 35 holes of torture, basically,” declared Davies afterwards of the weather and she wasn’t happy, either, about the medals being decided by two sets of foursomes matches after the round-robin phase earlier in the week had been fourballs.
“I don’t understand what yesterday (the mixed event meaning a break in the separate men’s and women’s events that offered the bulk of the prize-money) was all about or the format,” added the former world No 1. “If they say it was about taking too much long in fourballs, then don’t have the mixed thing and just have semi-finals on Saturday and the final on the Sunday. It would be brilliant fun. That wasn’t fun today. Unless you win of, course. If you win it’s great. We all love winning.”
Thomson and MacLaren may not have been actual winners in either of their events, but it felt as though that was the case. For Thomson, the prize-money was more than six times what she’d earned previously this season and also represented more than half her career earnings. “I’m over the moon,” said the former policewoman. “The medals are so important in this event. That’s the main thing for us.”
Concurring, MacLaren, a 24-year-old from Northamptonshire who is proud to call herself “quarter Scottish”, added: “You kind of forget about the money when you are out there. I’m not going to be telling everyone how much money we won here; I’ll be telling them I have two medals to show for the week.”
Earlier in the day, a combination of Thomson and MacLaren not gelling as well as they had in the fourball format in the round-robin phase and their French opponents, Dreher and Molle, faring much better in that respect led to the British third string seeing their hopes of a gold medal killed off in a 5&4 defeat. That win was clinched in style by Manon as she rolled in a 20-foot eagle putt at the par-4 14th.
“She played unbelievable today,” said Thomson, who was magnanimous in defeat. “Her short game was incredible. Even when they missed the green in some ridiculous places, she managed to save them and Justine then holed the putts. They worked really well together Meghan played pretty well and I didn’t back her up as well as I could have. But I felt I did my bit this afternoon.”
Unsurprisingly, Hall finally seemed to run out of gas. She’d been riding on the crest of a wave after becoming a maiden major winner at Royal Lytham last week, but failing to get out of a bunker at the last then missing from inside two feet saw the top home pair lose to Sweden’s third string in the semi-finals after being three up with five to play.
“It was very hard, it was freezing and it was too much golf today in that weather,” said the 22-year-old before heading straight home to Bournemouth to enjoy a much-deserved week off.