When Matthew talks Eu­rope’s play­ers lis­ten

Calm cap­tain backed to pre­vent US Sol­heim Cup three-peat, writes James Corrigan at Gle­nea­gles

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Subject -

Awry smirk ap­peared on Ca­tri­ona Matthew’s face at Gle­nea­gles yes­ter­day when Dame Laura Davies mis­chie­vously ques­tioned whether Amer­ica should be “such strong favourites” to win the Sol­heim Cup this week.

And the Eu­rope cap­tain even man­aged to sti­fle a guf­faw when her gar­landed as­sis­tant de­clared that the home team were out to stop the visi­tors from win­ning their third match in suc­ces­sion – “if only be­cause they keep go­ing on about that ‘three-peat’ thing”.

Matthew will leave oth­ers in her back­room to is­sue the barbs in the bi­en­nial event’s tra­di­tional phoney war be­fore it tees off in Perthshire on Fri­day. When it comes to her lead­er­ship skills, the quiet Scot is more Bernhard Langer than Seve Balles­teros. The 50-year-old will com­mand by re­spect, not by the­atrics.

That im­age is al­ready part of this en­counter’s nar­ra­tive with one jour­nal­ist re­fer­ring to Matthew as “Clark Kent”, which is ironic see­ing as she was hailed as “Su­per­mum” when win­ning the Women’s British Open just 11 weeks af­ter giv­ing birth in 2009.

“With her it’s just calm­ness and al­ways has been,” Davies said. “But she’s a fierce com­peti­tor, make no mis­take about that. She wants to win this more than any of us. She’s

put a lot into this the last two years. Yet she never shows any­thing.”

Matthew’s proper nick­name is “Beany”. Her brother strug­gled to say “Ca­tri­ona”, and called her “Tre­any” in­stead. From Tre­any came Beany and from that chil­dren’s course in North Ber­wick – in­evitably known as “The Wee Course” – emerged Scot­land’s most suc­cess­ful fe­male player.

Never the long­est off the tee, Matthew reached eighth in the world through the strength of her psy­che and the bel­liger­ence of her con­sis­tency. Her per­son­al­ity matches her game – not showy, but ad­mired. “Beany might not be the loud­est or the type to make grand state­ments,” Davies said. “But she is mea­sured and thought­ful and when she says some­thing, you lis­ten.”

Cer­tainly, Davies did when Matthew asked her to be her vice-cap­tain. It was quite the turn­around, as a few months ear­lier Davies had in­sisted she never wanted to be in the team­room in any role other than player. “For some rea­son, the top golfers lose the abil­ity to func­tion for one week ev­ery two years, and it would drive me in­sane to go and get ba­nanas on the third green,” Davies had said.

But when Beany came call­ing, Dame Laura sud­denly de­cided the cap fits and do not be shocked to see Davies on fruit duty. “I will do any­thing Beany asks me to do,” she said. “Al­though at the mo­ment she has ev­ery­thing or­gan­ised.”

With Matthew, the prepa­ra­tion al­ways was go­ing to be key. She met up with Paul Mcgin­ley – the Ir­ish­man who led Eu­rope to their mem­o­rable Ry­der Cup vic­tory at Gle­nea­gles five years ago – on three oc­ca­sions in the build-up and has taken ad­vice from Thomas Bjorn, the win­ning 2018 cap­tain, and Sam Tor­rance, the win­ning 2002 cap­tain. In truth, how­ever, Matthew has seen it all for her­self. She has Sol­heim ex­pe­ri­ence writ­ten all over her CV, with nine ap­pear­ances, three of which were in win­ning teams. Matthew knows the for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge of low­er­ing the Stars and Stripes.

“The pair­ings and the or­der are, of course, im­por­tant and Paul gave me some valu­able in­sight on that, but our job is es­sen­tially to keep the play­ers loose, keep them re­laxed,” Matthew said. “Once Fri­day comes it’s stress­ful enough. You can try and tell some­one who has never been on that first tee what it’s like, but un­til you get there and ex­pe­ri­ence it for your­self, you don’t know how you’ll re­act. But they’re all good play­ers. I’m sure they’ll cope. I’ve just told them ‘en­joy it, be­cause if you don’t en­joy this then you’re do­ing the wrong thing’.”

How­ever, will Matthew be able to en­joy it with more than 80,000 ar­riv­ing at the High­lands es­tate to make it the most at­tended fe­male golf event to be held in Bri­tain? She is adamant she will, yet there can be no doubt what it would mean to the “un­vo­cal hero”.

“It would be right at the top,” Matthew said. “I’ve al­ways loved the Sol­heim Cup and to be the win­ning cap­tain at Gle­nea­gles in Scot­land would rank above my British Open win.”

Fierce com­peti­tor: Ca­tri­ona Matthew has pre­pared metic­u­lously for Gle­nea­gles

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