Great move by the R&A in appointing Catriona Matthew to captain the 2024 Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup team to face the United States at Sunningdale.
It begs the question: will we see a tour professional, say Padraig Harrington, captain the 2025 GB&I Walker Cup team for the match at Cypress Point.
Matthew’s appointment breaks new ground in the biennial match: Scotland’s greatest women golfer, the 2009 Ricoh Women’s Open champion, is the first tour professional appointed to the captain’s role. Matthew’s fitness to lead GB&I’s best women amateurs is beyond question: three Curtis Cups as a player, twice helping attain the trophy the Curtis sisters bequeathed to golf; two successful stints as Solheim Cup captain, with nine appearances as a player; six Ladies European Tour and four LPGA wins. She’s an inspirational figure who has gone out of her way to help Scottish junior golf throughout her career.
In short, a no brainer choice for the R&A.
There’s obviously another reason the governing body has gone down the professional route to try to win the cup since the 2016 match at Dun Laoghaire: there aren’t a lot of options in the amateur ranks.
Long gone are the days when players like Matthew competed in multiple Curtis Cups. These days, players are usually one and done before jumping to the professional ranks. Finding a suitable candidate who hasn’t turned professional isn’t easy. Ditto for the Walker Cup.
Former R&A chief executive Peter Dawson considered tour pros for the Walker Cup captaincy long before Slumbers took over his role. Dawson considered former Walker Cuppers like Colin Montgomerie, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington. As Dawson said:
“We have a problem going forward since so few Walker Cup players remain amateur.”
That problem is more acute than it was in Dawson’s day. Like the Curtis Cup, the majority of Walker Cuppers don’t hang around too long in the amateur ranks.
Harrington is the obvious choice to succeed Stuart Wilson as Walker Cup captain considering he was a long-time R&A ambassador. Similar to Matthew, the three-time major winner competed in three Walker Cups as a player, tasting success in 1995 at Royal Porthcawl against a U.S. team led by Tiger Woods.
Just as Matthew brings much needed publicity and star power to an important biennial match that doesn’t get nearly the publicity it deserves in a landscape where professional golf gets so much coverage, Harrington could do the same for the Walker Cup. It, too, doesn’t get the attention it merits given its long and storied history.
The R&A has opened up a whole new world of choice for former Curtis and Walker Cup players to step into the respective captaincy roles. Matthew has named Karen Stupples and Mhairi McKay as her assistants. Both would make excellent captains, with a long line of ex-players turned pro waiting in the wings. McGinley, Montgomerie, Luke Donald and many others would step into the role seamlessly and give the Walker Cup a huge publicity boost.
Pádraig Harrington, 2025 Walker Cup captain has as nice a ring to it as Catriona Matthew, 2024 Curtis Cup Captain. You heard it here first....
#JustSaying: “I loved my time as a Curtis Cup player and team golf is something I have always enjoyed. Plus, it’s nice to give something back to the game, too.” Catriona Matthew
Photography courtesy of the Ladies European Tour