The 2019 European Solheim Cup Captain Catriona Matthew and her partner Holly Clyburn made it three wins from three matches for the British women’s teams in round one of the European Golf Team Championships, played over the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles in Scotland.
The newly crowned Ricoh Women’s British Open champion, Georgia Hall, and the recent US Senior Open champion, Dame Laura Davies, drew first blood with an emphatic 5&4 win over Noemi Jimenez and Silvia Banon from Spain in the top match.
Later in the afternoon, the Women’s New South Wales Open champion Meghan MacLaren and Michele Thomson earned a 5&4 win over Icelandic pair Olafia Kristinsdottir and Valdis Thora Jonsdottir.
The two French teams also won both of their matches. Former Lacoste Ladies Open de France champion Celine Herbin and this year’s Jabra Ladies Open winner Astrid Vayson de Pradenne relished the rare opportunity to play team match play and defeated Germany’s Olivia Cowan and Karolin Lampert by 4&3 in the fourballs.
Justine Dreher’s eagle at the par-4 third hole was a huge boost and she and rookie Manon Mollé went on to win by 2&1 over Swedes Julia Engstrom and Johanna Gustavsson.
There were also wins for Germany, represented by Isi Gabsa and Leticia Ras Anderica, who defeated Belgians Chloe Leurquin and Manon De Roey by 5&3, as well as Finland, by Ursula Wikstrom and Noora Komulainen over Austrians Christine Wolf and Sarah Schober and Sweden, with Linda Wessberg and Cajsa Persson winning by 5&4 over Norwegians Marianne Skarpnord and Marita Engzelius.
In the top match, Davies made the first gain with a birdie at the par-5 second and Jimenez won the third, but from that point the British pair, with five majors between them, dominated with winning birdies on the seventh, eighth, 11th, 12th and 14th holes.
Davies said: “We had nine birdies and five pars and that will be enough to win most matches. They played well but we didn’t give them too many chances.
“When one of us wasn’t on it the other one stepped in. We gelled well together.
“But it’s only one match and we have to keep that standard up. The Spanish team lost today but with two more wins (from their group matches) and they are still in it. That’s one of the great things about this round robin tournament. I love this whole tournament. It’s like a mini-Olympics.”
Hall added: “It’s the first time we have played together. We had a laugh on the way round. I love match play golf and playing in a team event.”
On hearing her name announced as the British Open champion, she said: “It’s the first time I’ve heard that. It was great to hear it. But it was good to concentrate on my golf again after the last few days.”
Banon wasn’t too deflated and said afterwards: “To play against two major champions, that’s awesome. We did play good, it gives us lots of confidence, even though we lost, we lost to two great players.”
In the men’s team event being played concurrently over the same golf course, the top British pairing of Callum Shinkwin and Lee Slattery need a win on the second day to retain their ranking as men’s gold medal favourites.
Shinkwin and Slattery seemed to be coasting to victory over Spanish pair Santiago Tarrio Ben and David Borda but then almost had the match snatched from them.
From three up with six holes to play, the Britons were rocked as the Spaniards racked up three successive birdies.
It was all square going into the final hole – and Shinkwin and Slattery managed to halve it and stave off defeat. All is not lost because this match play format is a round robin event, each pair playing three times. There are four groups from which the top pair will qualify for the semi-finals and final on Sunday.
“We have to erase the ‘being favourites’ tag from our head,” Slattery said. “Callum and I might have played the best over the last year, but there are still some good players here.
“It’s a dogfight; anyone can win.”
The biggest victory of the day was Iceland’s 6&5 win when Birgir Hafthorsson and Axel Boasson defeated Belgium’s Christopher Mivis and Lars Bujis.
“I think we are a good mix. He can let it go and we just groove in,” said Hafthorsson.
The second round takes place on Thursday, when Matthew and Clyburn will get proceedings under way, in their match against Spain, at 8am.