It might still be 10 months away but already the signals are pointing to three Scots making the European team to defend the Solheim Cup at
Interlachen in Minnesota.
But Janice Moodie (pictured), Catriona Matthew and Mhairi McKay, all ranked in the top-25 on the LPGA Order of Merit, are taking vastly different approaches to the build-up towards selection for the September 20-22 encounter.
Moodie is desperate to retain her place; Matthew shrugs off the issue with the indifference fueled by her controversial omission in 2000, while McKay is trying not to overdose on pressure as she savours the prospect of
a Cup debut.
Moodie played a major role in Europe's victory over the US at Loch Lomond last year, and rates the experience as one of her career highlights.
But Matthew, who played in 1998, is still finding it tough to shake off the massive disappointment she felt when fellow-Scot Dale Reid failed to find her a place among the five Captain's wild cards for 2000.
'I'll just be fulfilling the minimum requirements (three events) for tournaments in Europe next year, and I'm not even thinking about the
Solheim,' said Matthew, who must already be a dead cert considering she is the leading British player and the third-ranked European at no nine on the LPGA money list.
'If I make the team, then well and good. If not, then so be it,' she says
But McKay, who has had easily her best season and is 23rd on the money list, has set her sights firmly on the 2002 side. 'This year I've played so much better and been far more consistent,' she said.
'When I turned pro I had a picture of myself and where I wanted to be and, over the last couple of years, I've fallen short. But now I feel I'm matching that picture.
'Next season, I want to take my game a step further and I've certainly got the Solheim firmly in my mind. But the goal is just to keep playing as well as possible and then the Solheim should take care of itself.'
For all three, the new season will start at the Australian Masters in the middle of February, and another Scot who will start the year down under and with the hope of forcing her way into Solheim contention is Kathryn Marshall.
Marshall played in 1996, but has never really come close for the last two teams following a disappointing loss of form. But she has climbed to a much more respectable 60th on this season's money list, and she is ready to
challenge again next year.
The first Scot to win on the LPGA Tour - in the 1995 Jamie Farr Classic - Marshall still rates the Solheim as the best experience of her golfing
'I just loved it,' she says with oozing enthusiasm. 'I always loved team sports when I was at school, and even winning wasn't quite as good as the Solheim experience.
'I'd love to make the side again next year, although there are so many good players in Europe at the moment that I know that it will be extremely tough. But I also know that there is a real chance that Europe could win the event for the first time in America; and to be part of that really would be a dream cone true.'
So look out for four Scottish Solheim contenders. And while they may have contrasting approaches to the selection process, rest assured that they all would love to be part of a history-making European victory.
|| 16 - NOVEMBER 2001