by Martin Blake
Twenty years after Catriona Matthew won a Women's Australian Open at Yarra Yarra, the Scot is still a force in the game and has a chance to win it again. It is a great tribute to a player who is effectively ageless, a warrior of the women's game around the world.
Matthew shot a brilliant 67 in the wind on Thursday, then followed up with 69 in easier conditions today to be within a shot of the lead in the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open at The Grange.
It did not surprise her a bit; at 46, Matthew still competes with gusto on the LPGA Tour in America, is a major winner having secured the Women's British Open, and is renowned for being hard to beat.
Her win in Melbourne in 1996 is such a distant memory that Matthew was shocked when told that it was a full 20 years ago. "I suppose I hadn't really thought about it being 20 years ago,'' she said.
Asked for her recollections, she said: "Not a whole lot. Lotte Neumann and I were up there, if I can remember, and I just edged her out.''
Matthew keeps playing because she loves competing. "I think that's the beauty of golf, you can play, it doesn't matter what your age is as long as you can hit the golf ball and still get it in the hole. Age isn't a barrier.''
She said she did not think about her age, even though many of her competitors are half her age, even less. "I would say my game is getting better actually, I mean it has to, the standard's improved so much over the 20 years. You're always working on something, you're never happy as a golfer.''
The Scot said she would be "at home with the kids'' if she could not compete. She has two girls Katie and Sophie who are in school and at home in Scotland with family, but her husband Graeme is on the bag this week.
"It's nice, he caddied for 15 or 16 years, now he doesn't come out much,'' she said. "I have a brother (David Lambert) who lives in Sydney and he's down and my mother (Joan) who's visiting him, so it's a little family reunion.''
She hit 16 greens today and the highlight was an eagle three at the first, arguing that her ability to hit greens (16 of 18 today) was key. "I'm delighted. When I played my practice round on Tuesday I thought it was a tricky course. Some of the fairways are quite generous but you've really got to try and hit the greens, and that's what I've done the first few days.''