In many respects, Matthew's
heroics at this Ricoh Women's British Open were just as remarkable as
the age-defying run of Tom Watson at the male equivalent two weeks ago.
After all, the evergreen 59-year-old could not convert his last-day
advantage into the first prize. Matthew, just three weeks short of her
40th birthday, did, and did so rather nervelessly. She lost her lead,
then regained it, eventually cruising home by three shots from
fast-finishing Australian Karrie Webb.
And then there was the rust
shook off by Matthew. Due to the arrival of Sophie, the world No 64 was
making only her second competitive outing in five months. The next time
a pro moans about "an interrupted preparation" they should stand back
while Catriona's story is thrown back in their faces. They might even
need gas and air to get through it.
Typically of Matthew, she
managed to hold back the emotion which threatened to overflow on the
18th green when following Laura Davies, Alison Nicholas and Karen
Stupples as the fourth British major winner in history. "I'm just about
speechless," she said. "I had a tear in my eye coming up the final
fairway but told myself to keep it together. There were some anxious
moments out there and I have to thank Graeme [her husband and caddie]
for helping me a lot."
When asked how she had
managed to prevail so soon after labour, Matthew claimed it had actually
assisted her challenge. "When I had my first, Katie, two years ago, I
finished second and third on my first two outings," she explained. "And
this time, it was not as difficult as the first. I actually began
practising five weeks after the birth. When I'm playing I don't get time
to practise much so that extra time was a benefit. And although Graeme
probably won't agree, I think motherhood has calmed me down on the
course. Everything's more in perspective."
Although the spotlight will
inevitably fall on her whirlwind few months – last week at her comeback
event, the Evian Masters, she and Graeme were forced to flee a burning
hotel – this victory was, in fact, the product of 14 tough years as a
professional. She admitted there "had been times when I questioned
whether I could do it". In 2001, Matthew was demoralised after letting
slip a one-shot lead in the final round at Sunningdale and again in 2007
when a third-round 80 at St Andrews destroyed a winning chance. All of
these experiences proved vital in yesterday's fraught early stages.
Three clear overnight,
Matthew bogeyed three of the first 10 holes and fell into a tie with
Japan's Ai Miyazato. But then Matthew, playing the feared Lytham back
nine, sank putts of 15 feet at the 13th and 35-feet at the 14th and
two-putted the long 15th for a third successive birdie. With the rivals
around her suddenly falling back, the destination of the £200,000 cheque
was not in doubt. At three-under, Matthew was the only member of the
144-strong field who broke par.
Meanwhile, on the British
front, Matthew was the only finisher in the top 30. Only four of her
countrywoman survived the cut and as only Vikki Laing, 28, is under 35,
the paucity of young British talent is obvious. Surely this triumph will
inspire the home champions of the future. Not to mention the mums of the
future. "We'll have to see about the rest of the year, but the Tour has
great childcare facilities and the four of us will set off on Tour next
year," said Matthew. They should prove a formidable team.