Well, now that Catriona Matthew has agreed to become the first professional captain of a Curtis Cup team, there’s a real treat in store for GB and I’s top women amateurs. They’ll be learning from one of the best, a woman who won the Women’s British Amateur in 1993, the Women’s Open in 2009 and even more pertinently, led Europe to victory in the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in 2019 and at Inverness Club, in Ohio, in 2021.
Elaine Ratcliffe, Catriona’s esteemed immediate predecessor, did play on the tour for several years but was reinstated as an amateur well before she became captain. It’s no easy task, even at home, when the matches tend to be closer than the recent batterings away in the United States. Only four countries to call on, not the whole of Europe and players, however good, still mostly at the early learning stage.
The Scot from North Berwick, who played in three Curtis Cup matches in the early 1990s (one loss, one win, one draw, a real rarity), trained on to become the epitome of a model professional, one of Europe’s best for many years, nine times a Solheim Cup player and a mother of two daughters to boot, with husband and oft-time caddy Graeme. You don’t do all that without an immense amount of help, organisation and determination, not forgetting talent.“As a player I remember the emotions of competing in the Curtis Cup,” Catriona said. “The excitement of being on a team rather than competing individually, as well as the desire to perform well for your team and pressure you put on yourself not to let them down.
“As a captain it is my job to navigate the players through these situations and to help them believe what is possible.
“Through the Solheim Cup I have gained experience in building a high-performing and successful team, including bringing together individual athletes from different countries and recognising whose strengths will combine well to create successful pairings.
“My goal is to channel all my playing and captaining skills into this Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team to optimise their performance.”
It’s an exciting prospect and Catriona has enlisted Kathryn Imrie and Karen Stupples as her trusted lieutenants. I for one will be busting a gut (it’ll probably be even bigger next year than it is now) to be at Sunningdale, one of the world’s best venues, for the week of the match (Friday 30th August – Sunday 1st September). Put it in your diary, it’ll be a wonderful occasion.
Now the whispers are that the Walker Cup could go pro too, with Padraig Harrington mooted as a possible captain for the 2024 match at Cypress Point. Start saving now, whoever the captain is. Cypress Point is a beautiful place and it’s not on the normal tourist route, so where better to watch some of the world’s best amateurs stretch their skills and nerves to the limit and beyond.
Away from golf and with Totspurs off duty because of the international break (giving us all time to absorb our manager’s rant about selfish players and so on), I went to my first women’s football match and what a joy it was. For one thing, it was close to home, at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium and it was a (Women’s) FA Cup quarter-final between Aston Villa Women and Manchester City Women.
What a joy it was. The players were skilful, fast, fit and just got on with things. The lack of moaning, rolling around in agony and arguing with the referee was a revelation, so refreshing; it made me realise just what pampered plonkers the men are, allowed to get away with behaviour that should be beyond the pale. What’s more, the fans were intermingled, sitting next to each other, not segregated at all and I don’t think I saw a single, solitary police person.
Villa won 2-1 aet (after extra time for the non footie fans) and will play Chelsea, the holders, at Villa Park, in the semi-finals on Sunday 16th April. Manchester United, who beat Lewes, play Brighton.
The only downside was the loos, sez she who is used to up-to-date luxury at Spurs – off the pitch if not on. There were two of them, woefully inadequate and not (wo)manned, so it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience. The stadium opened in 1990, so perhaps they didn’t expect many women to go to matches, let alone be playing there in front of lots of women and children. Thirty-three years is a long time in football…
Mustn’t forget to congratulate the amazing Ireland rugby team, who won the Grand Slam in Dublin on Saturday, beating a stubborn 14-man England 29-16. Ireland were just ahead, 10-6, when England full back Freddie Steward was sent off just before half-time and an independent disciplinary committee has since decided that it should have been a yellow card not a red. Oops.
After the rugby it was off to listen to the City of Lichfield Concert Band and the wonderful Everybody Sings choir, under the direction of Helen Williams, with Clare Butterriss at the piano. The perfect end to a perfect day.