Catriona Matthew has been handed the task of trying to steer Europe to victory in the anchor match in the opening session of the 15th Solheim Cup in Iowa.
And, according to one of her closest friends, the contest in Des Moines over the next three days is a “match made in heaven” for the North Berwick woman.
Matthew, who came here as as one of Europe’s vice captains before swapping roles with the injured Suzann Pettersen, has been thrown into the heat of battle straight away by Annika Sorenstam. The Swede has paired Matthew with Karine Icher from France in the last of four foursomes matches in the opening session, where they take on Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller.
It’s a measure of the faith Sorenstam has in the Scottish No.1, who will become the oldest European to play in the biennial event in what will be her ninth appearance.
That is no surprise to Kathryn Imrie, who came through the ranks with Matthew when they were amateurs and is here this week as one of Sorenstam’s unofficial backroom team members.
“What happened was unfortunate for Suzann, but what a replacement,” said Imrie, a former LPGA Tour winner who is now a teaching pro based in California. “Beany’s record in this speaks for itself. This event is a match made in heaven for her.”
Imrie could easily have found herself caddying for Matthew but the 47-year-old opted instead for Edinburgh man Michael Paterson, who was due to be on Pettersen’s bag.
“I was going to caddie for her (in practice) and it would have been such good fun,” admitted the Dundee woman. “But she did the right thing in getting Mikey on the bag.”
Like Imrie, Kevin Craggs is confident that Matthew will be up to the task in the biggest event in women’s golf and, as the man who coaches her at Kingsfield Golf Centre on the outskirts of Linlithgow, he should know.
“I don’t think there is anyone better to step up to the plate in a situation like this,” he said.
“It’s her ninth Solheim Cup. She has a massive presence in the team room and an incredible presence on the golf course. She has every skill set that’s required. She’s been here and done it before and match-play in itself could really suit her this week. You can be a bit more aggressive and mistakes aren’t as punishing as they are in stroke-play. This is the biggest stage for female golf. It just doesn’t get any bigger. But someone like Catriona has a great ability of being able to manage her emotions impeccably. She’s got a game style that she is in control of and I am confident she will embrace this better than anyone could.”
Matthew got into the world’s top ten after she first started working with Craggs and turned to him again recently after the pair had 15 months apart.
“It’s like anything,” said the former Scottish ladies’ national coach. “Relationships sometimes need a break and I was delighted when she contacted me and said, ‘can we get things back on the road?’.
“You know what, we are great friends off the golf course and I am respectful of her and her family, so it was a no-brainer and I am looking forward to working with her during the latter part of what has been a great career.”
Meanwhile, Craigielaw’s Jane Turner recorded her first win on the LET Access Series with a wire-to wire victory in the Bossey Ladies Championship at Golf de Bossey, near Geneva. She beat Spaniard Noemi Jimenez at the second extra hole in a sudden-death play-off after the pair had finished tied on seven-under 206.