Captain backing plan to bring golf’s Solheim Cup to Yorkshire

European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew believes England is long overdue hosting ladies’ golf’s biggest event – and that Yorkshire would be an ideal venue to stage it.

Triumphant: Team Europe captain Catriona Matthew (top) celebrates with her team and the trophy after winning the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles Golf Club, Auchterarder. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

Tourism chiefs in Yorkshire have identified the Solheim Cup as the potential jewel in the crown of their bid to make the White Rose county a premier golfing destination over the next decade.

Welcome to Yorkshire co-organised the Ian Woosnam Senior Golf Classic at Ilkley Golf Club this week, a two-day event that attracted a number of sporting celebrities and a field packed full offamous senior names.

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While held without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was the tourism agency and their partners SGH Sporting Events’ first step towards bringing golf’s biggest names to the county.

The plan – as revealed in The Yorkshire Post last month – is to test the feasibility of staging golfing events by making the seniors competition an annual tournament and then introducing professional ladies events in the following years.

Bidding to host the biennial Solheim Cup would potentially be the big prize in 10 to 15 years, with Yorkshire home to 180 courses and some of the most famous in the north.

England, surprisingly, has never hosted a Solheim Cup which has been staged eight times in Europe since its inception in 1990.

Matthew – who played in the Ilkley tournament – was the captain of Europe when they beat the United States in a thrilling Solheim Cup last year and will captain the side again when they defend their title in Ohio next September.

“I think it would be great if Yorkshire made a bid,” she said. “There’s been a lot of English players playing in the Solheim Cup over the years and it’s not even been in England before.

“I think England would be well placed to host it – and Yorkshire is a lovely spot.”

Much as the Ryder Cup grows in stature with every passing renewal, so the ladies equivalent continues to develop.

Ninety thousand fans attended the week-long golfing celebration at Gleneagles last September, bringing a huge financial boost to the Perthshire economy.

“I saw a big difference in 2003 in Sweden,” said Matthew, who debuted in the event in 1998.

“The crowds there were huge. Since then it’s just got bigger and bigger, a little like the Ryder Cup has done the last 20, 30 years.

“It’s now become one of the biggest events in women’s sport.”

Former women’s British Open champion Matthew led Europe to victory at Gleneagles when her wild-card selection, Suzann Petersen, holed the winning putt.

“It was just a fantastic week, you couldn’t have scripted it any better, how it finished coming down to Suzann, last match, last putt,” said Matthew.

“It was probably one of the highlights of my career even though I never hit a shot.

“It was the biggest thing to happen in women’s sport in Scotland, the United Kingdom, Europe.

“I’ve never seen anything like the crowds that week. It was extraordinary. I told my team to try to get the crowd into it, that they were desperate to cheer for Europe, so give them a reason to engage. No-one disappointed.”

While she could not replicate that by winning the Ian Woosnam Senior Golf Classic on Wednesday, she was at least happy to play her part in getting golf tournaments up and a running in Yorkshire. “It was a real pleasure to be here, and we lucked out with the weather,” she said.

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James Mitchinson