Lonely at the top
There have been 272 women’s majors since Lucia Mida won the 1930 U.S. Women’s Western Open. Guess how many have been won by a Scot?
I’ll save using a search engine to find the answer: one.
I covered the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham. It was brilliant. Matthew won that major championship just 11 weeks after giving birth to daughter Sophie. Cue “Super Mum” headlines. Quite rightly too. Any golf writer worth his or her salt who couldn’t do justice to that story, well, wasn’t really worth his or her salt.
As I said last week, Matthew has been a brilliant ambassador for the women’s game in the Home of Golf. Two things: she’s been very lonely in that position for far too long, and hasn’t really received the credit she deserved for that outstanding victory.
Not only did Matthew have the pressure of trying to win HER first major championship, but becoming the first Scottish woman to win a major championship. The reaction to Matthew’s win was patchy. There were outlets throughout the country that went out of their way to give her credit, but it was underwhelming as far as I’m concerned.
Can you imagine the headlines, the hoopla, if a Scottish woman had won Wimbledon for the first time? The press coverage would have been off the scale.
There’s another headline that perhaps should have gone with Matthew’s victory other than “Super Mum.”.
That thought has been percolating in my head since last week’s Scottish Golf must get its house in order blog.
Why did it take so long for a Scottish woman to win one of the game’s marquee tournaments? And why is it that a Scottish woman hasn’t come close to joining Matthew in the major club since then?
As I said last week, don’t throw that smaller population argument at me. And go easy on the "most of those 272 majors have been played in North America" line, too. That fact hasn’t stopped a plethora of women from other counties winning majors.
Koreans have obviously come to the fore in recent years, but even a precursory scan down the list reveals Swedes, Thai players, Japanese, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, South Africans, Norwegians, Mexicans, French, English and even a Peruvian.
I know what you’re going to say: There are no Irish or Welsh winners on that list. Why not pick on them? Because Scotland is the Home of Golf, that’s why.
Matthew is the last Scot to play on the Solheim Cup team. She made eight consecutive appearances between 2003 and 2017. She might have played last year if not for the fact she was captain. Janice Moodie was the last Scot besides Matthew to play in the biennial match. She made three appearances between 2000-2009, back in the days when Scotland had Solheim Cup contenders. Mhairi McKay played twice in the noughties too.
Scotland had contenders in the early days of the match in Dale Reid (4), Pam Wright (3) and Kathryn Imrie (1).
Trying to find a Scot to accompany Matthew in recent Solheim Cups hasn’t been easy. Since Matthew’s 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open win, just two Scots besides her have won Ladies European Tour events – Carly Booth and Kylie Walker.
And some think Scottish success has been hard to come by on the men’s European Tour?
The lack of success by Scottish women is hard to get your head around. It’s actually a national disgrace. These facts might have something to do with it.
According to the latest participation figures from KPMG, women account for just 11.9% of the total number of registered golfers in Scotland. That figure has hardly moved in years. In fact, it was 12.5% in 2015. It’s the lowest percentage in the home countries. Women make up 19.8% of Ireland’s registered golfers. The English figure is 13.5%, and 12.2% in Wales.
Not only is Scotland trailing behind its nearest neighbours, it’s getting lapped by European nations. German women make up 34.4% of its golf population. Sweden has a 25.2% figure, France 24.6%, Spain 24.3%, while Italy clocks in 21.6%.
Why is Scotland lagging so far behind the rest of the UK and Ireland and Europe? Why have we produced just one woman major winner?
Answers on a postcard please.