Catriona Matthew returns to the site of her 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open victory this week as she makes her 24th appearance in the Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England.
The Solheim Cup Captain’s victory nine years ago made her the first Scot to win a Major Championship, and was even more remarkable considering Matthew had given birth to her second child just 11 weeks before.
On the eve of the championship, she said: “Now, looking back, you can realise what an amazing feat it really was actually. At the time, I suppose you just get on with it, and I was playing golf, looking after Katie and Sophie, but you just kind of muddle along don’t you?”
The topic of sports women returning after giving birth has been discussed in depth recently after Serena Williams marked her comeback by reaching a Wimbledon final. Comparisons were made between Matthew and Williams during the Grand Slam this year, but while the Ladies European Tour and LPGA player was flattered by the comparison, Matthew emphasised that there is not one right way to return to professional sport.
“You have to kind of do what’s best for you. I was always lucky, Graeme caddied for me, so it was the two of us out there. I think if you were going to play on tour, they have the day care, which is fantastic and we couldn’t have done without that, but I think it’s very difficult to do if it’s just you or your children or child out there.”
Life on tour may not always be easy after having children, but Matthew wouldn’t have it any other way. “You do have less time to practice, but I think what you get out of having children outweighs maybe losing a few hours on the practice range.”
Since the Scot’s victory in 2009, 37 bunkers have been taken out but Matthew doesn’t believe it alters how Royal Lytham and St Annes plays. “Someone had told me they’d taken 40 bunkers out and I couldn’t quite believe it. I think the only one I probably noticed that wasn’t there that made the hole play a lot easier was 16. They’ve taken out the first one and the last. It gives you a lot more room just to fire down the left side. That was probably the only one I really noticed. And then someone told me, oh, they’d taken ones away on the fifth and the last and once someone told me I kind of remembered. But that was probably the only one I would have noticed.”
Matthew, along with Kylie Henry, is one of just two Scottish players in the field this week. “I was fortunate when I first started there was about four or five on tour but since the three of them have stopped, it’s just been me. So yeah, it’s kind of disappointing that there’s not more coming through,” she said.
Despite the low representation, Matthew is optimistic of her nation’s hopes this Championship. “I would like to think we’ve got chances.”
Last week at the Aberdeen Standard Investment Ladies Scottish Open, Matthew missed the cut despite an impressive first round 69. “I had the Thursday last week I played really well. Just kind of barely hit a bad shot and then the next day I went out and it was just dreadful. So it’s a little up and down, but yeah, you’ve always got to be positive.”
Her own golf is not her sole focus this week. The Solheim Cup Captain will also be keeping a watchful eye on the performances of the Europeans in the field. “Since I was announced as Captain, you’re obviously looking at how everyone was doing, and it was great to see Pernilla [Lindberg] win the ANA (Inspiration). I think the Europeans have been playing pretty well on the whole this year.”
With the most international field of any of the Major Championships, the 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open is sure to be an intriguing contest. Accuracy off the tee is going to be crucial in the mind of Matthew. “I think the person that keeps it out of the most fairway bunkers is going to be up there.”
Catriona Matthew tees off at 7:25 tomorrow alongside Anna Nordqvist and amateur Leona Maguire, with her sights set on repeating her 2009 triumph and claiming a second Major.