Last week I had a dream…., not one quite as seismic as Martin Luther King’s but seismic enough that it was a relief to me to wake up and realise it WAS only a dream. I dreamt that Catriona Matthew gave me one of her wild card picks for the European Solheim Cup team. I was incredulous and asked one of my friends why on earth had Catriona selected me when she knew that I had the yips on the greens? I decided I’d just have to do my best.
There was one other matter that concerned me more than my own selection and that was that Catriona had also given Patricia the nod! How was Patricia going to cope with playing in front of thousands and thousands of people with what Enid Wilson, erstwhile women’s golf correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, had once described as a non-event of a backswing? I put this question to Patricia who nonchalantly assured me that she would be absolutely fine and to concentrate on my own worries!
There were no such nightmares for Anna Nordqvist last week at Carnoustie as she tucked away the third major of her career, winning the AIG Women’s Open by a single shot from an intimidating trio of players waiting in the clubhouse: 2018 champion Georgia Hall, Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom and America’s Lizette Salas. The 34-year old winner has won each of her three majors in a different decade but this was, she says, “the most special” one of all.Anna had failed to grace the winner’s circle since her 2017 win at the Evian Championship, due in no small measure to battling a protracted bout of glandular fever which left her feeling debilitated and lacking in physical and mental strength. It was a long road back for the tall Swede and she admits she had doubts as to whether she would do it or not but with a newly acquired Scottish husband, not to mention a Scottish caddy on the bag, she felt buoyed by the support from the locals who were claiming her as one of their own. With this triumph Nordqvist follows in Georgia Hall’s footsteps of having won the British Girls’ Championship, the Women’s Amateur, the Smyth Salver for the low amateur at the Women’s Open, and then, of course, the ultimate prize of the Women’s Open itself. It’s a formidable list of accomplishments.
Scotland had even more to cheer with the refreshing sight of 21-year old Women’s Amateur champion, Louise Duncan, holding her own with the best in the world and claiming tenth spot in her major championship debut. The Stirling University student was undoubtedly well served by the calming influence of her coach, Dean Robertson, former Italian Open champion, on the bag and she thrilled the home crowds from her opening tee shot to her final putt.Louise has deflected any question of turning pro by saying she wants to complete her sports studies degree at uni and she definitely wants to play in next April’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, so the paid ranks are not at the forefront of her mind. I’m sure, however, that when the dust settles she may realise there are now a few more options open to her than the physiotherapy courses she was beginning to investigate. Right now, however, the Curtis Cup at lovely Conwy is on her agenda as GB&I, under the captaincy of Elaine Ratcliffe, try to win the trophy back from the Americans. Fingers crossed she doesn’t suffer a bit of a reaction to her tremendous efforts at Carnoustie.
Two other busy people last week were Catriona Matthew and Pat Hurst, the two Solheim Cup captains who were at last able to finalise their teams. Europe’s rules allowed them six picks while the Americans had three. Pat Hurst has put her trust in Brittany Altomare, who played in 2019, and two in-form Solheim rookies, Mina Harigae and Yealimi Noh. They round out the US side and all together they will be a formidable unit to overcome.Meanwhile, history is being made on the European team with both Ireland and Finland being represented for the first time in the match. Leona Maguire from Co Cavan had been hotly tipped to make her debut this year and a solid tied 13th finish last week cemented her place. She may be a rookie but she brings oodles of international experience going all the way back to Junior Ryder and Solheim Cup sides. A two-time Olympian, she’s unlikely to be over-fazed by the occasion – she has the maturity to take it all in her stride. She was also excited to be playing for Matthew. She said, “Catriona is a legend in her own right – a winning Solheim Cup captain and a major winner. For her to think I’m good enough to be on her team is quite humbling and an honour.”
She added, “I’m really excited, it is something that I have looked forward to. I have played the PING Junior Solheim Cup in 2009 and 2011. It was an incredible thing to be part of the Junior side so to be on the ‘big’ team is something really special and no Irish person has ever done it before.”Matilda Castren of Finland is blazing a similar trail in her own country and, until Nordqvist’s win last Sunday, was the only European to notch up a victory this season on the LPGA. Her excitement was infectious,
“It has been one of my goals and dreams since I was a little girl. It is just so cool to see it happen. I can’t describe it, I’m super happy. It’s hard to contain my excitement. To be the first Finn is such a huge honour and I’m super proud to represent my country.”
It must be a relief to the two captains finally to have their teams – and an even bigger relief to Catriona knowing that she doesn’t have to play either of the Madill sisters. There won’t be a non-event of a backswing nor a dodgy putting stroke in sight!