Catriona Matthew finally seems to be getting the credit she deserves for one of most incredible major victories of all time. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has granted the 2009 Ricoh Women’s Open champion honorary membership along with Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Nick Price.
Strange to think that just 10 years ago Matthew wouldn’t have made such a prestigious list. It’s yet another positive sign that R&A chief executive and Royal & Ancient secretary Martin Slumbers is serious about getting more women and girls into golf. The R&A boss has made promoting the women’s game one of the tenets of his tenure.
Victorious 2019 Solheim Cup captain Matthew is the 10th woman to be granted honorary membership of arguably the world’s most influential club. She takes her place at St Andrews alongside Annika Sorenstam and Dame Laura Davies, who were given honorary memberships in 2015. There are now 10 women who have been granted honorary membership of the previously all-male Royal & Ancient.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be made an Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” Matthew said. “I feel very privileged to be joining such an illustrious group of Honorary Members who are such renowned figures in the game of golf.
“I was fortunate enough to be one of the first recipients of an R&A Scholarship at the University of Stirling, and it gave me some fantastic opportunities to develop my career as a young golfer. The Club and The R&A do so much to grow the game, and I’m hugely supportive of the work they are doing to support women’s golf and particularly the AIG Women’s Open.”
Matthew’s 2009 major triumph at Royal Lytham was one for the ages, which is just one reason she belongs in the class of 2020. Not only did she have the pressure of trying to win her first major championship, she was bidding to become the first Scottish woman to win one of the tournaments that really matter. Oh, and there was the little matter of trying to win it less than three months after giving birth to daughter Sophie.
It was an incredible victory.
If a male Scottish/British golfer had pulled off a win of such epic proportions, money would have flooded into his bank account. Yet Matthew hardly made a penny from that famous victory. As IMG’s former head of Europe Guy Kinnings said at the time:
"If Luke Donald wins a major he would have the option of earning millions – Catriona didn't."
The 51-year-old has flown the flag for Scottish women’s golf for…. well, it seems like forever. She was inspirational in captaining Europe in the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles, and will spearhead Europe's defence of the trophy at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio next year.
Harrington and Els make sense as honorary members. After all, they’re both two-time winners of the game’s oldest major. Els won the Open Championship in 2002 and 2012, Harrington won back to back in 2007 and 2008. Besides, Harrington has served as an R&A ambassador. Price won the 1994 Open Championship at Turnberry. Moreover, like Els and Harrington, the Zimbabwean is one of golf’s true gentleman.
As I said earlier, there was a time when Matthew wouldn’t have made such an illustrious group given the Royal & Ancient’s male only policy. So it’s a good sign of the times that Matthew now has a locker in the world’s most famous, iconic clubhouse. Who knows, maybe the next time the Royal & Ancient announces four honorary members it will be a 50/50 split of male and female inductions.
#JustSaying: “I noticed a lady in the clubhouse at the weekend. I urge the Secretary to see that this does not happen again.” Entry in Worcester Golf Club’s complaint book in 1881.