Matthew remains top player while balancing motherhood, career
Longevity is a fickle and fleeting thing when it comes to the world of professional sports, with athletes in every realm searching for the formula that will ensure long and lasting careers. There’s no magic secret to consistent success over a long period of time, but with a lot of hard work, determination and skill, an athlete can remain at or near the top of their profession for decades.
Catriona Matthew is an example of just that.
The friendly Scot is in the 18th season of an impressive career on the LPGA Tour and remains one of the world’s best week-in and week-out. Fresh off a tie for fifth at the Kingsmill Championship, Matthew has put together another season to be proud of, making 12 of 14 cuts and adding another $261,276 to her more than $7.1 million in career earnings.
“This season’s been going pretty well, and I’ve started to play well the last few months,” Matthew said. “I feel like it’s all coming together.”
Matthew, the world’s 24th-ranked female golfer, has had a career that’s “come together” seemingly from the start. She became a Rolex First-Time Winner in 2001 at the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open, claimed her first major at the 2009 RICOH Women’s British Open weeks after giving birth to her second daughter and won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last year, 10 years after her first triumph.
Part of the keys to her longstanding success is a work ethic that makes Matthew refuse to be content with past achievements. She’s always working to see how she can improve.
“A lot of people are 20 years younger than me now, but the good thing is that I feel I can still improve,” said Matthew, who has 86 career top-10 finishes. “I don’t think I’ve reached my best, and there are always things I can work on – whether it’s fitness or something – so there’s always something that can make you better.
“I think I’ve always hit the ball pretty well, and I’ve worked with my swing and stayed in good shape. As you get older, you’ve got to keep trying to get stronger so you can keep up with everyone.”
A great striker of the ball, Matthew has been able avoid having to overhaul her swing during her nearly two-decade career. Instead, she has worked on fine-tuning specific aspects of her game in order to stay at a high level of play.
“I haven’t made any swing changes, but I’ve been working hard on my short game and putting,” she said. “I feel that’s where you can pick up the odd shot here or there by getting up and down or holing a 10-footer at a crucial time.”
Another way Matthew has extended her career is by making sure she’s taken time to decompress between seasons.
“I’ve always four or five weeks off where I don’t touch a club, and that just refreshes you and gets you hungry for the next season,” Matthew said.
Long an accomplished golfer, life changed in a big way for Matthew with the birth of her first daughter, Katie, in 2006. She and husband Graeme welcomed Sophie Lauren into the family in 2009, and their featured foursome was set.
As with most players, motherhood changed Matthew for the better, giving her a different outlook on life and golf alike.
“I think having children has helped my golf in a way, actually,” she said. “I think it’s made me focus a little less on golf and realize that golf’s not everything. It’s put everything in perspective and has made me more relaxed on the course to where I just kind of let things happen. It’s helped me in a strange sort of way.
“It’s all about finding a balance for what works best for everyone, really.”
The four-time LPGA champion is a six-time European Solheim Cup Team member who owns an 11-8-6 record. Matthew has a 5-1 mark in singles play, winning five consecutive singles matches, and her victory over Paula Creamer in Ireland last year set the tone for an action-packed day that ended with the Europeans taking back the Cup.
“Last year was certainly the most exciting,” she said. “Watching the last few matches, when Laura (Davies) got the half point with Juli (Inkster), I think we thought, ‘Oh, that’s going to be it. We’re going to fall just a little bit short.’ The last few matches were amazing, and everything that had to happen for things to go our way happened.
“We got a highlights DVD for Christmas, and watching it, I’m still not quite sure how we managed to win it. I think it was great for the Solheim Cup that Europe won it last time.”
Matthew has been a force in the golf world for nearly three decades. She won the 1986 Scottish Girls Championship, was the Scottish Under-21 Stroke Play Champion in 1988 and 1999 and the Scottish Amateur Champion in 1991 and from 1993-94.
Matthew claimed the 1993 British Amateur title, was a three-time GB&I Curtis Cup Team member (1990, 1992, 1994) and won the 1996 Australian Ladies Open on the WPGET.
After all these years as a professional, she’s still enjoying herself.
“I love the competitiveness of it,” Matthew said of her profession. “Being away from home isn’t much fun, but I love being in the hunt. When you’re a competitor, you just love being in those kind of situations.”