CATRIONA MATTHEW is urging her fellow players to speed up when they visit East Lothian later this week – in a bid to encourage more young girls to take up golf.
Matthew and former world No. 1 Laura Davies are the star attractions in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open starting at Archerfield Links on Friday.
It’s the fifth year in a row that the East Lothian venue has hosted the event, with Matthew lifting the title by ten shots in 2011, then, by a narrower margin of two strokes, regaining it 12 months ago. The world No. 20 will start as favourite to make it a hat-trick in the 54-hole event, which is moving to Dundonald Links next summer with a prize-fund doubling from £200,000 to £400,000.
But, just as important to her as claiming titles, is playing a part in encouraging the next generation of female golfers in Scotland.
And, according to the 2009 Ricoh Women’s Open champion, speed of play is something that needs to improve to help with that.
“Women’s golf in Scotland, like Britain, is not as popular amongst the young,” said Matthew in a Q&A for the Ladies European Tour website.
“I think there is almost a missing generation in most golf clubs in Britain of women between 30-45 years up in the game so something needs to be done about that.
“Maybe more nine-hole competitions, so it doesn’t take so long. The pros should show an example, too, and play quicker!”
Matthew, who is an honorary member of the host club, doesn’t expect for one minute to get things all her own way this time around.
She sees both Davies and Trish Johnson, another member of Europe’s Solheim Cup-winning side at Dalmahoy in 1992, as dangers. Fellow Scot Kylie Walker has also won twice this season on the LET, where rookie Sally Watson has been making her presence felt, too.
Add in Musselburgh’s Vikki Laing, who is enjoying a good season, and Matthew knows she’ll have to play well to come out on top again.
“The Tour has got much deeper these past few years,” said the 45-year-old. “This year I see Laura Davies is playing and she has been playing a lot better these past few weeks.
“Also Sophie (Gustafson) and Trish (Johnson) have great experience plus all the other current year winners. Holly Clyburn is another that is doing well.
“It has been great to see Kylie start to break through. She is starting to believe in herself a lot more and be more patient on the golf course.
“Sally has done well, too, and has been consistent. She has been smart in that she has a good degree behind her from Stanford.
“I have not played much at Archerfield this year. I have played the odd nine holes here and there and used the practice ground but not played a whole lot. I have been playing steadily. I believe I am very close to being really good.
“I really enjoy playing both in Scotland and at Archerfield. I just hope the weather is good and that a lot of people come out and watch.” (Entry is free over three days.)
After her home event, Matthew will turn her attention to the Evian Masters in France, the last major of the season, then has four events in Asia before one each in Mexico and the US to round off her 2014 campaign. “I would like to finish off the year strongly and snag a win,” she admitted. “Then I will start out 2015 at Royal Melbourne in February.”
Her main goal next year will be an eighth Solheim Cup appearance in Germany while in 2016 she’s hoping to be involved in golf’s return to the Olympics in Rio.
“It is definitely something I want to be part of,” admitted Matthew. “It has kept me going these past few years and is a good goal. It is really the only event I have not competed in and I want to be part of it in 2016.”