Curtis Cup golf: Pamela Pretswell gives GB&I hope

JUST as the Olympic Torch was being carried into nearby Inverness, Great Britain & Ireland kept alive their flickering hopes in the 37th Curtis Cup with a stirring fourball fightback for the second afternoon running on the Moray Firth coast.

Trailing 6-3 after another profitable foursome session for the Americans, the home team came up with the equivalent of a gold medal-winning performance by coming out on top by 2∫-∫ in afternoon jousts, meaning the two teams are separated by just one point heading into the final batch of eight singles matches today.

Pamela Pretswell, the sole Scot in the GB&I team, delivered one of the telling blows late in the day. After two defeats in the company of Charley Hull, she was paired in the anchor match with Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow. It was an inspired move.

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In a ding-dong affair, the Bothwell Castle player hit a majestic 9-iron approach from 118 yards to a couple of feet at the 17th to put the home pair one up. With a huge crowd surrounding the green, they also won the last to land a crucial point.

“My putt at the 17th may only have been two feet but it felt like 20 feet,” said Pretswell with a huge smile. “It is nice to finally get a point on the board and it’s been an awesome comeback this afternoon.” The only pity about it was the pace of play. The last match, for instance, took more than five hours to complete and saw the quartet asked to speed up at one point.

Pat Cornett, the American captain, was back on duty yesterday. She’d missed the afternoon session on Friday after breaking her ankle in a freak buggy accident, but bravely got back in one to support her players. They’d colourfully decorated her cast and continued to display short-game artistry on the course in the morning.

Conditions then were foul and, for the second day running, the fast start was made by the Americans. Out first, Amy Anderson and Tiffany Lua opened with two birdies to immediately go two up on Pretswell and Hull. The home duo clawed it back to all square after seven only to undo their good work by losing the next two holes to pars. It eventually finished 3&2 in favour of the Americans, who were a praiseworthy one-over.

Behind them, Holly Clyburn and Amy Boulden covered the opening 11 holes in level par to be one up. Then the wheels came off. They could only muster a single par over the next seven holes and crawled home in 43, losing by two holes in the end.

Thankfully, a repeat of the 3-0 whitewash from the foursomes the previous day never looked likely. The Irish pairing of Meadow and Leona Maguire got their noses in front early on – helped by three birdies in the first six holes – against Lindy Duncan and Lisa McCloskey and never looked back. It ended in a 3&1 success for GB&I.

By the time the afternoon matches teed off, it was at least dry. With hardly any wind at all, the scoring improved considerably. At one point, GB&I led in all three matches. Before too long, they were all back to square. Each of them went the full distance.

In the top one, Clyburn birdied the 15th to put GB&I level. Her afternoon partner, Kelly Tidy, then repeated the feat at the next. Clyburn held her nerve to roll in a par putt from 15 inches for a match-winning half at the last. It sent Anderson, who was playing Emily Tubert, to a first defeat in four games.

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Maguire and Bronte Law were two up at the turn against Brooke Pancake and Austin Ernst. The Americans had squared matters by the time they reached the 14th tee. Law had a chance to win it for GB&I at the last, but she sent a 15-foot birdie putt agonisingly wide of the hole.

Pretswell then conjured up her wonder shot, which Tegwen Matthews, the GB&I captain, described as “enormous”. The Welsh woman added: “It shows the class of the girl and, at 23, she has the experience to take on a shot like that.”

While there was little evidence of many putts being given, at least Cornett sportingly paid tribute to the GB&I players. “They hit the better shots this afternoon and hats off to them,” she said. But, with the home side needing to win five of the singles to win the match for the first time since 1996, it is still advantage America as they bid to extend an impressive sequence that has seen them lift the trophy in the last seven encounters to lead 27-6 overall.

But, having twice managed to resuscitate their challenge here, this GB&I side certainly appears to be gutsy enough to handle a final-day showdown.