Catriona Matthew insisted the honour was on par with winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open after being appointed as Europe’s Solheim Cup captain for the 2019 contest at Gleneagles - its third staging in the home of golf.
The North Berwick woman was still in the amateur ranks when Dalmahoy staged the first match in the biennial encounter on this side of the Atlantic in 1992 before being controversially left out by her fellow Scot, Dale Reid, at Loch Lomond eight years later.
Matthew is well aware that Europe won both those matches, meaning she’ll be under extra pressure to deliver the same result in Perthshire, but the 48-year-old is relishing the prospect of starting a new chapter in her career after nine playing appearances.
“I had said I was keen to do it,” said the Scottish No 1 of having intimated she’d be eager to take on the captaincy straight after it was announced in October 2015 that it would be staged on the PGA Centenary Course, scene of Europe’s Ryder Cup victory three years ago.
“But to find out so early on and so quickly after Des Moines (where the Americans retained the trophy last month) was fantastic, a dream come true. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and to have the opportunity to do it in Scotland makes it doubly special.
“Where does this rank in my career? It’s right at the top. The Solheim Cup has been my favourite week every two years. For ladies’ golf and even women’s sport, it is probably the biggest event. To have the chance to be captain ranks right up there with winning the British Open (at Royal Lytham in 2009).”
Despite picking up three points from four matches after she went from a vice-captain to a late replacement for the injured Suzann Pettersen in Iowa to take her points tally in the event to 22 – only Laura Davies and Annika Sorenstam have been more successful – Matthew has no intention of being a playing captain.
“Playing in 2019 is not a possibility,” she insisted. “That’s a definite as you couldn’t do both. Even if I was playing well, I would hopefully play again in 2021 (laughing). No, I am definitely not going to play in two years’ time.”
Her own schedule between now and then will change slightly as the Scot, winner of 10 titles worldwide and respected every bit as much on the other side of the Atlantic as she is in Europe, runs the rule over players who might make the team.
“Obviously I’m still playing full time, so I know most of them, but, after maybe not playing as much in Europe, I’m going to do that a bit more the next two years. I’m looking forward to that and it keeps me young hanging around all the younger ones (laughing).
“I’m going to play in the events on the LET in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai later this year and I also might play in another one in Australia. I’ll see what the schedule looks like and try to pick two or three out.”
Matthew’s appointment has been warmly welcomed. “Catriona is a very well respected by the players so she is the natural choice,” said former world No 1 Sorenstam while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added: “I have no doubt Catriona will prove to be an inspiration as captain, as she has been throughout her playing career and serve as a role model for thousands of golfers.”
Even Matthew’s two young daughters, Katie and Sophie, are excited about mum’s new role. “Yes, I’m definitely cooler now in the girls’ eyes,” she admitted with a huge smile. “Katie wants to pick out the dress (for the gala dinner). She’s not too keen on my dress sense.”