“She’s Beany.” In only two words, Laura Davies delivered her verdict on what Catriona Matthew brought to the table in the 16th Solheim Cup as she masterminded one of the greatest sporting triumphs on an incredible afternoon at glorious Gleneagles on Sunday.
Matthew’s main masterstroke as Europe pulled off a memorable 14½-13½ victory over Juli Inkster’s American side may have been handing one of her wildcards to Suzann Pettersen, who holed the winning putt with the final stroke of a match that had been a tight contest throughout.
It was also a brilliant move on her part, though, to appoint Davies, an 11-time Solheim Cup player and the all-time leader when it comes to winning points in the biennial event, as one of her vice-captains along with Kathryn Imrie and Mel Reid.
Between them, they came up with some profitable pairings, notably major winner Georgia Hall teaming up with rookie Celine Boutier as they delivered three points out of three together, and also got the home team’s singles order spot on by having a mix of experienced and gritty players down at the bottom.
“Catriona never looked worried,” said Davies as the dust settled on a dramatic last-day singles session, in which Europe won the last three matches on the course to record a first win since 2013 after the Americans had needed only half a point to retain the trophy and a full one to claim it for the third match in a row.
“She second-guessed herself a couple of times on decisions – but always went back to her original call. As vice-captains, we just said: ‘These are your decisions, Beany. We’re happy to chuck in a few suggestions’. But we knew she was making the right decisions all the way through.”
Asked what had perhaps made Matthew special in the role, the four-time major winner and former world No 1 added: “She’s Beany. She doesn’t get too worked up about anything. That’s just her personality – and that rubs off on the players. Communication was good, everyone knew what they were doing at all times.
“She also had to make a couple of tough decisions. A couple of players were sat out when they didn’t want to be. But that’s part of being a captain. You have to be strong – and she is. She might look like she just cruises along. But, if there’s a decision to be made, she proved this week that she can make it.”
The odd eyebrow had been raised when the North Berwick woman picked Pettersen despite the Norwegian having only played two individual events since November 2017 as she took maternity leave. “No, no, not at all,” replied Davies to being asked if that had been a bold call by Matthew. “It was an easy decision.
“I understand why people have questioned it, kind of, because she hadn’t played that much over the last few years. But she’s had a kid and had that injury before the last Solheim Cup (when she was replaced by Matthew in Des Moines in 2017). I backed her all the way. I said yes immediately when I was asked the question.”
As was the case when Matthew asked her to be a vice-captain in the event, one in which she has been involved from the start, having been in Europe’s first pairing on the opening day at Lake Nona in 1990. “People always thought I’d never be a vice-captain,” said Davies. “Well, I was never asked to be a vice-captain by any of the Swedish captains. That’s fine, they filled their backroom staff with all their friends, the other Swedes. When Beany asked me, I said yes immediately.
“It was fun for me. As a win, it’s the best win we’ve ever had in the Solheim Cup. The win in Ireland (at Killeen Castle in 2011), we came back in a very similar fashion. But this tops it because of all the characters involved, some of the younger players – and I think the whole week has been the best Solheim Cup experience I’ve ever had.
“I mean, people keep saying well done to me. I haven’t done anything. I’ve sat on a golf cart all week, been driven around by one of my best mates, my ex-caddie Jonny (Scott) – and just had a good laugh. I haven’t hit one good shot or one bad shot all week.”
Does she now fancy a crack at the captaincy? “No. Not really. I don’t see why I would,” she insisted. Referring to Pettersen, who announced moments after holing the match-winning putt that it was her final act in the game, Davies added: “I think she’s nailed on, if she wants to do it. She would be a great captain of the future.
“My vote would go to Beany again next time, because everyone has enjoyed it so much.
“I always think that, if you win, you deserve the chance to go and get the trophy back again. I would encourage her to go for it. Catriona and her family might think it’s way too much!
“It’s a hell of a commitment. But it’s not any of our choices, it’s the board of LET.”
That board has been a beleaguered one over the past couple of years due to the fact it has struggled to provide an adequate playing schedule for its members. All 12 players in the winning team at Gleneagles compete mainly on the LPGA circuit in the US and Davies is hoping the spectacle in Perthshire, especially the final day and, of course, the way it ended, will help deliver a much-needed boost for the LET.h
“For women’s golf overall, it’s a hell of a showpiece. It’s the big one,” she said of the Solheim Cup, which, of course, has now delivered three European successes on Scottish soil after earlier victories at Dalmahoy and Loch Lomond in 1992 and 2000 respectively. “And the girls turned up. They made it amazing.
“If people weren’t gripped by that ending, I would be very, very surprised. I just hope it helps the European tour, the LET, because we deserve a little break – and maybe this is the break we needed. If they can’t get a lift out of this, it’s pretty grim.”