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Double Solheim Cup winning captain Catriona Matthew has praised Dubai and the Emirates Golf Federation on their efforts to promote female golf. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Double Solheim Cup winning captain Catriona Matthew has applauded the Emirates Golf Federation’s work in getting girls into golf as she prepares to play under the lights for the first time on the Ladies European Tour at the Dubai Moonlight Classic presented by EGA from October 27-29.

The 52-year-old, who played the event when it was known as the Dubai Ladies Masters, had to withdraw last year after testing positive for COVID-19 but will be amongst the star-studded field competing later this month at the only night tournament in world golf.

Great supporter

“I love playing in Dubai,” said Matthew. “I came out for many years to the Dubai Ladies Masters event that was held on the Majlis course and loved it.

“The players all used to love the playing that tournament. It was for sure one that you would put on your schedule at the start of every year. Dubai has always been very proactive in encouraging golf for women and has been a great supporter of the LET over many years.

“It is definitely seen as a destination that women golfers from over the world want to come to so they can experience great conditioned golf courses, great weather and great food. I’m very much looking forward to playing the event this year and experiencing playing a full-length course under floodlights.”

Matthew entered the history books last month after becoming the first European captain to lead the side to consecutive wins at the Solheim Cup. The gripping 15-13 triumph at Inverness Golf Club in Ohio defied the odds with the team entering the biennial showpiece as heavy underdogs, who were only backed by a limited number of European fans due to the travel restrictions in place.

“The biggest difference this year for sure was the lack of fans,” she said. “I reckon we maybe had 50 out of 50,000 each day supporting us. We barely got a cheer for making a birdie or hitting a good shot into greens, yet the Americans were getting cheers as if they were winning a hole for making a 4-foot putt to tie the hole, so the crowd was the biggest difference for sure.

“Honestly, being Solheim Cup captain has been the highlight of my career. To have been fortunate enough to be the winning captain back-to-back has just been the icing on the cake. After Gleneagles I thought hard whether I wanted to do it again and I enjoyed it so much I just had to give it another run, with the fact that Inverness Club had so many Scottish connections…course name and course designer, it seemed it might have been written in the stars to win back-to-back.”

With women’s golf firmly in the spotlight with the likes of the Korda sisters, Olympic golf and Europe’s titanic Solheim Cup triumph all inspiring the next generation of female stars, Matthew was delighted to hear of the initiatives the Emirates Golf Federation has put in place to promote women’s golf.

Everyday activity

In recent years, the Governing Body of Golf in the United Arab Emirates has signed the R&A’s Women in Golf Charter, hired a full-time Ladies National Team coach and implemented golf as an everyday activity in Physical Education through their National Junior Development Program.

“I think this is just great,” she said. “I wish golf was part of PE lessons in Scotland too. Unfortunately, it’s not and I find it a little sad that it’s not. I think this is the best way to get into the game because if it’s part of PE at school then everyone gets to try it and you can find out if you really enjoy the game so a huge round of applause to the EGF’s National Junior Development Program and The Ministry of Education for getting this development programme up and running.

“In terms of being coached by a female pro, I think young girls would love that. It gives them more confidence and they can relate more. I see this at my home club too, we have a lady pro that all the juniors love to go to for lessons. It’s also great for the girls to see role models on TV. My own two daughters love to watch on TV and not only to see them play golf but love to see their outfits too! They see it as a cool sport to watch now.

“My advice to any young girl is to just go out and have fun. Hit the ball as hard as you can, don’t worry about where it goes to start with and just go have fun.”