AIG Women’s Open 2022: Once a men’s golf enclave, the world’s best women

Catriona Matthews
Former Solheim Cup captain Catriona Mathew is from nearby Berwick
site: Muirfield, Gullane, Scotland date: Thursday 3 August – Sunday 7 August
Coverage: Highlights on BBC iPlayer and BBC 2, and follow updates on the BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sport websites and apps

Former Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew is living proof that if a woman has played at a previous Muirfield Slam, she might be picking up litter or carrying a scoreboard.

But times have changed, even in the ultra-conservative world of the Edinburgh Golfers’ Honors Company.

This week, the exclusive club in glorious East Lothian Woodland will host some of the world’s best female players at the AIG Women’s Open.

Muirfield was a men’s-only golf enclave until 2017, and the club initially failed to find the two-thirds majority needed to amend its bylaws and allow female members to see it emerge from the men’s Open.

This loss of status focused attention, and the second ballot proved more progressive, allowing women to join for the first time. Muirfield is still waiting for the 17th Men’s Open, which was last held in 2013, but is back on the shortlist.

And, while it’s not a traditional Claret Jug, it’s arguably Scotland’s fairest links test to play big golf again.

Scotland’s Matthew will tee off in the final women’s Grand Slam of the year on Thursday morning, and the 2009 champion’s mind will no doubt return to her first visit to Muirfield.

They volunteered to pick up litter and carry scoreboards at the 1992 tournament.

“I do remember that it was a terrible weather one I scored,” Matthew recalled. “I was really lucky to be on the John Cook team on the last day, [Sir Nick] Faldo won, and I think John Cook missed that little putt on the 17th. ”

Moorfield has been hosting the Open since 1892, but by joining venues such as Royal Latham, Carnoustie, St Andrews Old Course, Royal Birkdale and Turnberry, it is also now the largest in the world The venue for one of the women’s championships.

“I think it’s great to be here,” Matthew added. “Obviously in the last possible 10 years we’ve started going to all the Open venues, and you’ve seen those players play in the last 50, 60 years.

“And I think it just elevates this championship – we’re now going to classes that people are used to seeing. I think it’s good for us.”

Matthew, a native of nearby North Berwick, added: “Personally, having obviously lived and grown up this road, I never thought I’d be able to play a game so close to home. Grand Slam.”

At Carnoustie last year, the 52-year-old was delighted to watch Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist pull off a thrilling victory that helped inspire concern for Matthew’s team that summer. Confidence for a successful defense of the Solheim Cup later on.

Now, the Swede is soaking up the atmosphere before trying to retain her title this week. “I’ve heard a lot about Muirfield,” said Nordqvist, 35.

“I know these guys have been playing here for years, so I think it’s an amazing opportunity for us to have Muirfield in our Open rotation.

“It’s so cool to see these pictures. I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time.”

The leading contenders were unanimously delighted that Muirfield was hosting the race. “I’m very excited to be out in the event this year,” said Olympic champion Nelly Korda.

“I know the history and the fact that we’re going to be the first women’s championship here as well is amazing.

“So I’m more excited to actually be here, to play this golf course, to be immersed in it, to learn about the history of this place.”

American Korda has come a long way since a blood clot in her arm cost her a spot at the Chevron Chevron in March. The 24-year-old then made two top 10 finishes, including an eighth place finish at the recent Evian Championship.

The event was won by resurgent Canadian Brooke Henderson, another top star keen to highlight the historic significance of the week. “Playing this year really means a lot to all of us,” the 24-year-old world number five said.

“It’s just proof that the women’s game continues to grow, the purse is growing, we’re on network TV more, and we’re playing on these better venues.

“It’s really fun to be a part of women’s golf because it’s growing and we feel like we’re making a difference for future generations.”

Those young people who have volunteered this week, perhaps for the first time, have the chance to walk on the sacred lawns of Muirfield, they can be so confident that if they can reach a high enough standard, nothing will stop them from competing for the biggest prizes in the future. .

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