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Great Britain and Ireland takes one-point lead at Curtis Cup

MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, Mass. (AP) — Winning the Curtis Cup for the first time in seven tries would be sweet. Winning it on American soil would be even sweeter. Winning it on the home course of the two women who founded the event would be perfect.

The team comprised of Great Britain and Ireland got off to a strong start Friday in its effort to snatch the 36th Curtis Cup competition from the U.S. squad in the biennial event being held at the Essex County Club this weekend.

After halving the three morning foursomes, the visitors won two of the three fourball matches in the afternoon to take a 3.5-2.5 lead over the Americans. The U.S., which has won the event six straight times, needs 10 points to retain the cup; the GB&I team 10.5 points to take it back across the pond.

Essex County was the home course of sisters Harriot and Margaret Curtis, who donated the cup for which the competition between the two teams of female amateur golfers is named.

Pamela Pretswell of Scotland and Danielle McVeigh of Northern Ireland jumped on the American team of Jennifer Song and Kimberly Kim in the leadoff afternoon fourball match, birdieing the first two holes and seven of the 15 holes in a 4 and 3 win.

McVeigh, of Northern Ireland and at 22 the oldest woman on the team, made several putts on the 6,500-yard layout designed by famed Scotsman Donald Ross.

"Danielle had a 3-foot putt for a birdie on the first hole and we were off and running," said Pretswell, who admitted being nervous at the start after not playing in the morning matches.

Sally Watson of England and Lisa Maguire of Ireland birdied the 16th hole and held on for a 1-up win over Americans Jessica Korda and Tiffany Lua in another afternoon fourball.

"I think we all played some really great golf," said Korda. "It came down to who made more putts in the end."

Maguire, whose short putt on the 18th hole sealed the win, said she was glad she was able to contribute after Watson carried the team for most of the match.

If this is to be 15-year-old Alexis Thompson's last appearance as an amateur, she'd like to go out with a bang. Thompson, who is expected to turn pro as early as next week, was the star of the day for the U.S. team. She and Jennifer Johnson scored the lone U.S. win, the duo scoring five birdies on their own ball in a 3 and 2 win over Rachel Jennings and Leona Maguire in the afternoon.

"I asked the girls after they made it all-square at the ninth, 'are you ready to take control of this match?'" said American captain Noreen Mohler.

GB&I captain Mary McKenna said before play began that the foursome and fourball formats that make up the first two days of play favored her team, and was happy with the first-day results.

"Halving the morning matches gave us the confidence we could play with them (the U.S.). We knew we were capable of it."

She said she was happy with the way her team played.

"There's lots of golf left, that's what I'll tell them. I'm happy with the position we're in."

In the morning matches - played in the foursome alternate-shot format - GB&I's Watson and Jennings were 2-up with two holes to play against the U.S.'s Song and Johnson, but a clutch putt by Johnson on 17 extended the match and the Americans also won the 18th.

Hannah Barwood and Holly Clyburn deadlocked with the U.S.'s Thompson and Korda, and McVeigh sank a long putt on the 18th to give her and teammate Leona Maguire a half-point against Cydney Clanton and Stepahnie Kono of the U.S.

McKenna said her team isn't going to get ahead of itself.

"It's only Day One. We start tomorrow with a clean slate."

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