Matthew Gives Scotland Major Lift

When you consider that Mary, Queen of Scots was a high profile lover of the links it has taken the home of golf no little time to produce a major winner in women’s golf.

Thankfully that all changed at teatime on Sunday evening when Catriona Matthew, having recovered from a few early wobbles, held her nerve to clinch her first major title by three strokes after a tough week at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

The North Berwick born player has been Scotland’s most likely for some time. Unlike so many Scot’s she has transferred a stellar amateur career into a solid career on the professional circuit. Her consistency has never been questioned but her lack of wins has in the past been blamed on a problem converting good positions into winning positions.

That all changed on Sunday when, despite slipping back to the field, she responded valiantly to notch three straight birdies in the back nine and restore her three shot lead.

Modest, unassuming and refreshingly matter of fact and down to earth about her sport and her career Matthew will be a popular champion both in her homeland and on Tour: Christina Kim was just one of the fellow pros to pay gushing tribute to the new champion.

And women’s golf in the UK has benefited from the media coverage of a homegrown winner with a story to tell. Characteristically Matthew was quick to downplay what many saw as the most remarkable part of her win – she gave birth just 11 weeks ago.

Indeed victories have bookended the birth of her second child with a win in Brazil coming when she was five months pregnant. The next time we hear a male pro complain about the weather or a sore wrist we might like to reflect on the magnitude of Matthew’s achievement.

On her return to Europe at the Evian Masters she suffered the anguish of a fire in her hotel. Her husband and caddy got his feet burnt as they made a dash for safety although he recovered sufficiently to take the bag and share in her biggest win.

For all that she might shun the limelight Matthew certainly provided a most dramatic narrative as she warmed up to capture her biggest prize.

The win is also a massive boost for Europe’s Solheim Cup team. With Annika Sorenstam gone Europe at least now have two reigning major champions on board for America in Matthew and Anna Nordqvist. It will still be a tough task but Matthew, set to become the most capped Scot, has given morale the lift that was required.

Hearteningly the Scottish Girls team, bedecked in Saltires, were on hand to celebrate the win. The support amateurs are given in Scotland is phenomenal and the results seem to just get better and better.

Turning that into measurable success on the pro tours is, however, becoming a problem and Scotland’s professional standing is sliding (only Vikki Laing, another East Lothian native, joined Matthew in qualifying for the weekend at Royal Lytham & St Annes) every year.

Matthew has shown perseverance and dedication can take you to the top. Let’s hope her win inspires others to do the same.

But for now let’s just enjoy her victory. Sensible, likeable and as matter of fact as any golfer you’d ever meet.

All the qualities, in fact, that one would hope for in Scotland’s first major champion.

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