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Two’s company as Catriona Matthew leads small Scots challenge at Women’s British Open


As a standard bearer for Scottish golf, they don’t come much better than Catriona Matthew. She’s been heaving the flag here, there and everywhere for so long now, her palms must be calloused by the burden.

At 48, she’d probably like to pass that metaphorical saltire on to a younger generation. They are not queuing up for the role, mind you.

Here at Royal Lytham for the Ricoh Women’s British Open, Matthew, the winner of the title over this rigorous links back in 2009, forms part of a Scottish contingent that’s so small, it makes Jimmy Krankie look like the Colossus of Rhodes.

Read more: Stewart Fisher: Ellie Soutter tragedy should make us all think about the pressure athletes are under

A year ago at Kingsbarns, there were six Scots in the field. This week, it’s just Matthew and Kylie Henry. “It’s probably one of the lowest in my time,” said Matthew. “It’s kind of disappointing that there are not more coming through.”

Back in the formative years of the Women’s Open, Scottish assaults on the title came in regular waves.

The well-kent amateur duo of Belle Robertson and Wilma Aitken, for instance, notched three runners-up finishes between 1978 and 1981 while Dale Reid was second in 1984. It’s a different competitive environment nowadays, of course.

The general global strength in depth of the women’s game is one thing, but the threadbare nature of the stricken Ladies European Tour schedule means that players on this side of the pond simply don’t have enough events to play in.

As a result, their ranking suffers, their hopes of progressing to the LPGA Tour suffers and their overall development suffers.

“Well, it’s not good, is it?,” said Laura Davies, who is playing in her 38th consecutive Women’s Open this week. “I feel sorry for all the young girls who are great players. But they need to play tournaments.”

Read more: Stewart Fisher: Ellie Soutter tragedy should make us all think about the pressure athletes are under

And as for the Solheim Cup and its Ladies European Tour representation? “The trouble is what it will become,” warned Davies. “It would be the top Europeans that play on the LPGA against the top Americans of the LPGA. That would be a shame.”

Toils and troubles of the European Tour aside, both Matthew and Davies are relishing the challenge that lies ahead this week.

Nearly a decade after becoming the first Scot to win a women’s major here at Lytham, Matthew is enjoying something of a meander down memory lane.

In the build-up to the championship’s return to the Fylde coast, the North Berwick veteran has been asked to replay that victory so many times, her recollections will probably have to be digitally remastered at some point.

Eleven weeks after giving birth to her second daughter, Matthew eased to a three-shot win. At a time when new mum, Serena Williams continues to make her comeback in tennis, Matthew’s win nine years ago remains pertinent.

“You do wonder if you’ll come back and perhaps you doubt yourself a little bit,” she said of a sporting life after birth. “But you can see from myself, Serena and a few other athletes that there’s no reason why you can’t come back after having children.”


Source : HeraldScotland

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