The pro-am is a curious affair.
Throw in a few celebrity figures and the whole thing can become even more bizarre. The sight of a stony-faced professional, keen to earn some cash and waiting impatiently to launch their approach shot, while playing partner Ronnie Corbett chuckles a long-winded anecdote about standing next to Shakin’ Stevens in the BBC urinals, remains a joy to behold.
Sadly, there was no sign of the diminutive Corbett at Archerfield Links over the weekend but the general quirkiness of the pro-am format was in evidence in the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open.
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While there was the usual baffling mixture of madness and improbable magic in the shot-making of the amateurs on show, the true class of the professional shone through as Catriona Matthew strolled to a staggering 10-shot win.
Because of the pro-am element, the lack of spectators (admission was free, it has to be said) and the fact that the Scottish Senior Open at St Andrews was on at the same time – that clash is to be remedied next year with the Ladies Open moving to an earlier date – there was a low-key feel about the whole event. But let us not forget that this was still a Ladies European Tour competition.
Imagine the scenes if Monty had won on the men’s circuit in such a comprehensive manner. We in the golfing media would have probably downed tools after putting the final, gushing touches to the commemorative pull-out supplement before carrying him home on a sedan chair.
On the day that Matthew romped to the biggest winning margin of her glittering, 16-year professional career, Motherwell’s Steven O’Hara had sparked arguably more interest by moving into a share of the lead after three rounds of the Czech Open.
Had he finished the job and claimed a maiden tour title on Sunday, the women’s event would have been relegated further down the publicity order. In the end, O’Hara’s challenge fizzled out and, not for the first time, it was left to Matthew to carry the saltire on to the winner’s rostrum.
As inspiring sporting figures go, there can be none better than the mild-mannered and hard-working 41-year-old from North Berwick.
At the end of a week in which clubgolf, the national junior programme, announced that a record number of girls – almost 18,500 primary five pupils – have been introduced to the game this year, it was fitting that Matthew triumphed on her own turf.
“I would like to think Catriona has already encouraged some girls to take up the game,” said Tom Younger, the general manager at Archerfield where Matthew is an honorary member. “They must see someone who has won a major, played in so many Solheim Cups and won as often as she has on tour and aspire to do the same.”
With the likes of Lynn Kenny, Clare Queen and Vikki Laing, who have all been on tour for a few years now, struggling to make inroads on the European stage, Scotland needs someone to emerge from Matthew’s shadow. Glasgow’s Kylie Walker, who joined the circuit last year, is currently the second-best Scot on the European rankings at No.49 following a career-best fifth-place finish at Archerfield and is growing in maturity, confidence and ability.
The 24-year-old was swift to praise the “inspirational” qualities of Matthew but also recognised just how high the standards she has set are. A 10-shot win in a tour event, after all, is a remarkable achievement. Once again, however, Matthew has probably not been given the credit she richly deserves.
Tiger Woods may not have accepted an invitation to this week’s Johnnie Walker Championship but another name on the Gleneagles guest list has raised a few eyebrows.
Ian Redford, the teenage son of the former Dundee, Rangers and Dundee United midfielder, will line up in Perthshire as he has his first taste of European Tour action since making something of a surprise move into the pro game earlier this year.
The former Scottish under-16 champion admitted at the time that he wanted to serve his apprenticeship in the lower levels of the paid ranks and work up. They were admirable sentiments from a very pleasant and articulate young man but you fear the rigours of a fully-stretched PGA Centenary course could be a step too far.
Redford has earned barely £500 from a couple of domestic Optical Express Tour events and has missed the cut in all five of his appearances on the third-tier EuroPro Tour.
With a host of seasoned European and Challenge Tour players scrapping for their cards and not having a chance to play this week, there are already a few grumbles of discontent from within the game.