Europe’s thrilling Solheim Cup triumph continued a wonderful summer for women and girls’ golf and placed further spotlight on the female game.
Amid jubilant scenes at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio – after only the second European win on American soil since the event began in 1990 – the success also highlighted the journey a number of players have been on since winning R&A championships.
Many have found a love for the game at an early age, started in the amateur ranks, won leading amateur titles and then gone on to do the same at the very top of the professional game.
For girls looking to get into golf, or even drawn into the sport by the celebratory scenes at the Solheim Cup or the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie last month, a number of the victorious European golfers can act as inspirational figures for those aspiring to do the same.
"I think we were a team of 12 – we needed all 12,” said a beaming Matthew, late on Monday evening. “The Americans were a fantastic team this year, they played hard but perhaps we holed a few more putts. We've been one big team and we've loved every moment of it.”
Matthew, the first European captain to win back-to-back after delivering the nail-biting victory at Gleneagles in 2019, led her team with quiet confidence and steely determination once more. The 52-year-old, now arguably the most decorated of all Scottish female golfers, was a three-time Curtis Cup player before going on to highlight her own outstanding professional career with victory in the Women’s Open in 2009 at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
Matthew herself has acted as an inspiration for young, hungry, talented golfers and her selection of one such player, Leona Maguire, as a captain’s pick proved inspired.
Maguire, 26, was the first Irishwoman to ever play in a Solheim Cup. The former top-ranked amateur in the world certainly delivered, achieving four-and-a-half points from five on a dream debut. The only player, from either team, to play all five sessions, Maguire’s stunning display continued the upward trend of her career, including a stellar amateur record. As well as three Curtis Cup appearances, she claimed the R&A Women’s Amateur Championship at Pyle and Kenfig in 2017.
“I don’t think you could have dreamed up something like this,” she smiled. “It has been a very special week. Catriona (Matthew) and the vice-captains put a lot of trust in me, using me in all five matches and I wanted to win every single point I could. It has been amazing.”
A glance at the victorious European line-up reveals other Women’s Amateur Champions down the years. Celine Boutier (2015), Emily Kristine Pedersen (2014), Georgia Hall (2013), Anna Nordqvist (2008) and Carlota Ciganda (2007).
Going further back, there were also R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship triumphs for Hall (2012) and Nordqvist (2005).
Denmark’s Pedersen, who confirmed the outright 15-13 victory on Monday after her win on the 18th against Danielle Kang, can only be inspired by her Scandinavian compatriot Nordqvist. The Swede secured her third Major title with a superb success in the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie and was again a dominant force for Matthew in her seventh Solheim Cup appearance.
Hall, together with fellow English players Charley Hull and Mel Reid, have also progressed impressively since their amateur days to become leaders in the Solheim Cup arena. Reid, a Curtis Cup player in 2006, took Maguire under her wing to form a formidable pairing, while Hull was a victorious Curtis Cup player in 2012. The trio continue to relish team competition.
Matthew was also a stalwart of the European Solheim Cup team that won at Colorado Golf Club in 2013, while Ciganda, Nordqvist and Hull, who was making her debut at the age of 17, were also in the team.
More success in the US has now followed and there is every likelihood the likes of Louise Duncan, the Women’s Amateur Champion, and Girls’ Amateur Champion Hannah Darling, looked on with pride and joy at Europe’s latest success.
Both played in the Curtis Cup last month. Perhaps the talented duo, or others, will make their own journey to the Solheim Cup one day too?