Undefeated Ulster duo keep team in the mix for title
The Vagliano Trophy is finely poised at 6.5 to 5.5 in Team Europe's favour after two Ulster golfers played important roles for Great Britain and Ireland at Malone Golf Club yesterday.
The biennial tournament, which pits the best amateurs of Great Britain and Ireland against their continental counterparts, has been won by the European team since 2007, although the hosts will feel that run could end today with only one point separating the sides.
Leona Maguire and Olivia Mehaffey went undefeated as they paired up to take a point from their foursomes before Maguire won and Mehaffey halved in the singles.
The Ulster pair began the day in confident form against the French duo of Celine Boutier and Justine Dreher and earned a 3&2 victory.
Maguire and Mehaffey seized the advantage on the first and despite Boutier and Dreher taking the second and fourth, they never trailed after winning the third, seventh, ninth and 11th.
The sides were tied after the morning session with Noemi Jimenez Martin and Luna Sobron of Spain beating Bronte Law and Chloe Williams by two holes to match the opening point of Maguire and Mehaffey.
Meghan MacLaren and Alice Hewson then defeated Albane Valenzuela and Nuria Iturrios by a hole and Linnea Strom and Madelene Sagstrom secured a 2&1 win over Hayley Davis and Charlotte Thomas.
Maguire, the number one amateur in world coming into the tournament, again got the better of her Duke University team-mate Boutier in the afternoon singles.
Boutier, who arrived with fond memories of Northern Ireland having triumphed in the Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship at Portstewart earlier this month, won the second hole of the contest, but Maguire, of Slieve Russell, won the third, fifth, sixth and 16th to get the better of her fellow Bluedevil 2&1.
At one point in the afternoon, with Maguire the only player leading for Great Britain and Ireland, Europe looked set to carry a significant advantage into the final day but Law fought back to take a 2&1 win over the German Olivia Cowan to put her team into a two-point advantage.
Team Europe, however, took the next four on offer thanks to wins from Sobron, Jiminez Martin, Iturrios and Valenzuela.
Taking five of six holes to start the back nine put Charlotte Thomas in a strong position to stop the rot against Sagstrom and the University of Washington student held her nerve on the 18th to claim a two-hole win.
Royal County Down's Mehaffey had looked set to ensure the final day would begin tied at six points apiece when leading by two holes after winning the 13th, but her opponent Strom recovered.
The Swede pulled one back immediately on the 14th and tied matters on the 16th, with neither golfer able to gain a crucial advantage over the final pair of holes.
With another four fourballs and eight singles matches scheduled to take place today, there are 12 more points on offer with play set to get under way at 8.00am.