A Stirling University graduate in the realm of accountancy and a mother of two, Catriona Matthew is a thoroughly impressive woman even before you glance at her golf credentials. In a nutshell, she captured the British Women’s Amateur at Lytham in 1993 and, 16 years later, won the British Women’s Open over the same links. What is more, the latter victory came only eleven weeks after she had given birth to her second child, Sophie.
Overall, Matthew has won 12 individual titles in her professional career (four of them on the LPGA Tour) while, on the team front, she has represented Great Britain and Ireland in three Curtis Cups and played for Europe in nine Solheim Cups, with her record in the Solheim one of: won 18 matches, lost 11, and halved eight.
As a Solheim Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2019, she won again in what was arguably the most closely-contested match in the history of the series. It was inarguably the most watched women’s sporting event ever contested in Scotland and propelled Catriona to iconic status. Needless to say, she has been chosen to captain the Europeans again next year, this time on American soil.
In 2017, she had been down to serve as one of Annika’s Sorenstam’s vice-captains, only to be asked to change track and play, filling in for the injured Suzann Pettersen. Sorenstam did not need to think too hard before making that decision. She knew that Matthew would switch roles without anything in the way of fuss and she was not remotely surprised when the Scot snatched a singles victory against the feted Stacy Lewis, which kept European hopes alive on what was for long a rivetingly close last afternoon.
As an individual, there is no question that Catriona’s stand-out feat came with the timing of that British Open title. Even today, much to the now 50-year-old Catriona’s amusement, Sophie still uses the fact that she was in her mother’s tummy in the months leading up to that result as a regular source of one-upmanship.
There are two incidents, in particular, to explain why Catriona has the single-minded and unexcitable approach needed for one of her calling.
In the week ahead of her British Open triumph, there was a fire at the hotel in which she and her husband, Graeme, were staying. The two of them alerted the other residents to what was happening and would have saved lives in the process. Graeme spent much of that night in hospital because of burns to his feet but the couple were unfazed. So much so that when, a year on, they went back to the Evian, they never thought twice about returning to the same hotel.
Meanwhile, in sorting out her team for Gleneagles, Catriona ignored all the criticism she was getting from the media for including Suzann Pettersen at a time when the Norwegian had virtually disappeared from the scene following the birth of her son. (She had played but two events in twenty months and slipped to 620 in the world rankings.) Matthew, however, just knew that there was not a player among the opposition who would feel comfortable about playing this feisty competitor and she was right.
It was Pettersen who holed the all-important point on the last day. Decision confirmed.