Europe’s captain marvel Matthew chooses to go out on Solheim Cup high

Given the reverence in which she is held, Catriona Matthew probably could’ve conducted her Solheim Cup-winning press conference from a marble plinth surrounded by bowing worshippers.

One of Scotland’s greatest golfers is not a woman for elaborate shows of pomp and ceremony, though. “Thank you team, you made me look good,” she said with typical modesty.

This truly was a mighty team effort and everybody played a part in a thrilling European conquest in Toledo.

The 15-13 scoreline ensured Europe not only retained the cup claimed in nail-nibbling fashion at Gleneagles two years ago but won outright on American soil for only the second time in the biennial tussle’s history.

Matthew became the first European captain to win two Solheim Cups. Her standing in the game continues to be so towering, she’d make the Colossus of Rhodes look like Jimmy Krankie.

Good luck to the next captain. Matthew has set a quite formidable standard. “It’s over to someone else now,” said the 52-year-old as she swatted aside any notion of a third crack at the captaincy with Suzann Pettersen a good bet to replace her. “We have so many good past players and I think everyone deserves their chance to be captain.

“I was lucky enough to play in nine Solheim Cups and I’ve captained two teams. I’ve had a fantastic time. It’s the best week I’ve had every two years. But it’s someone else’s turn.”

With a team featuring plenty of experience and an injection of fearless rookies, Matthew took a talented blend, gave it a good stir and created a very special sauce. In Leona Maguire, Europe had a very special debutant too. Her haul of 4½ points was a record for a rookie while her profitable partnership with sturdy stalwart Mel Reid was a stroke of captaincy genius.

“I didn’t see that pairing coming,” admitted Reid of an alliance that were unbeaten in three outings together. “But I trusted Catriona. You’ve just got to look at the way the rookies played. They were completely fearless. This is a team win for sure, and we had to become a unit to beat such a world class American team.

“Beany [Matthew’s nickname] and me were talking and said that if we were to pick 12 players, then this would have been it. Eveyone stepped up.”

It was perhaps fitting that Matilda Castren earned the point that pushed Europe to an unbeatable tally and made sure the visitors would keep their grip on the cup. Her rise to prominence over the last year has been startling. She won on the Symetra Tor to earn an LPGA Tour card, then triumphed on the main women’s circuit. Despite that success, the Finn was not eligible for Solheim Cup selection but she made the trip back to her home continent in July, won on the Ladies European Tour in her native Finland and the rest is sporting history. “The feeling was incredible” said Castren of that decisive putt.

Matthew, a major winner in 2009 just 11 weeks after giving birth to her daughter, has savoured some incredible feelings in golf too and her quiet, canny, diligent leadership has, once again, earned widespread acclaim.

“She’s been a great role model for all of us,” said the current Women’s Open champion and seven-time Solheim Cup player Anna Nordqvist. “I remember watching her in the 2003 Solheim Cup in Barsebäck when I was outside the ropes and could only dream about making one team. Now I’ve made a few.

“Having her as a captain the last two years and seeing the way she has led the team, the way she’s brought all the girls together, I think this is the best team Europe has ever had.

“She did have to make a few hard decisions, leaving a few other players that have been playing good out. But it’s just the calm that she has around her, the confidence she has in all the players, the way everything is thought out and how easy her and the rest of the assistant captains make it for us. It’s been an honour to play for her.”

The plaudits for Matthew are thoroughly merited. The prize for Team Europe, richly deserved.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992