At 44, Matthew finds ultimate balance of golf, family

Catriona Matthew, 44, is not only competing with the young guns at this week's Ricoh Women's British Open, but also managing to maintain a solid family life with husband Graeme and daughters Katie and Sophie.

SOUTHPORT, England –– Catriona Matthew is an enigma. Few LPGA players have to balance the life she leads.

As Matthew looks around at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, all she can see are girls young enough to be her daughters. Yet at 44 years old, Matthew is not only competing with the young guns, but also managing to maintain a solid family life with husband Graeme and daughters Katie and Sophie.

The North Berwick professional famously won the 2009 Women’s British Open just 11 weeks after giving birth to her second daughter Sophie. Those who thought another addition to the Matthew family might slow Catriona down were mistaken. She’s won five times since then, and played in three Solheim Cups.

“Obviously it’s very busy,” Matthew said. “Even when I’m at home I probably don’t practice as much as most people. Come August, our youngest starts school, so I’ll have from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to squeeze everything in.

"The last few years it’s been from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.. You just try to make your practice a little bit more quality than the length of it. You get around it.”

That last line may fit into the throwaway category, but Matthew gets around it very well.

“Catriona continues to impress everybody,” said Stacy Lewis, the world's top-ranked player. “She’s playing better now than probably she has at any time in her career. It’s really impressive because she doesn’t play as many weeks as she probably wants to because of the kids.”

Much of Matthew’s career has been a family affair, with husband Graeme caddying for her. He was by her side when she won her major title at Royal Lytham.

They no longer walk the fairways together on a regular basis. Catriona has Verners Tess on the bag, with Graeme employed in more important work back home in Scotland.

“I couldn’t have done it without Graeme’s help over the years,” Matthew said. “He’s been obviously very supportive and now he’s at home looking after the children more, which he’s finding harder work than caddying. You need great support from your family if you’re going to do well. So I’ve been very lucky.”

Matthew isn’t entirely alone on the LPGA. Juli Inkster has also combined a successful career with bringing up a family.

“It’s something that a lot of girls look to,” Lewis said. “You look at her, you look at Juli that they have done it. They’ve raised a family and still had a successful career. It’s just really impressive.”

Arguably more impressive is that Matthew has the added burden of playing most of her golf in the United States, 4,000 miles from her family.

Although it’s been five years since Matthew’s major win, she comes into Royal Birkdale in great form. She finished 10th in the recent U.S. Women’s Open and also has two third place finishes this year, the Honda LPGA Thailand and the Airbus LPGA Classic.

Her results make her an attractive bet at the 33-to-1 odds British bookmaker William Hill is offering.

“I’m please with how I’m playing,” she said. “I’ve played well all year. The weeks I’ve been up there have been the weeks I’ve putted better. It comes down to how I putt.

“You’re going to have to drive well this week and keep it on the fairways. At the end of the day, it always comes down to who holes the most putts.”

That part of the game is supposed to the forte of younger golfers who have not experienced the short-stick demons. Yet Matthew doesn’t seem to suffer in that department, or in any other.

Don’t be surprised if she’s in contention come Sunday. That would give Graeme and the girls something to cheer about.

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