When Pamela Pretswell sees fellow Scot Andy Murray – Britain’s world-ranked top tennis player – in action on TV in Grand Slam events, she can’t help thinking back to her very early teens when she was in the same junior tennis squad for national coaching as Andy.
“I used to be Scottish girls tennis champion, ranked No 1 in Scotland and No 2 in Britain, and I played for Britain at under-14 tennis level,” says Pretswell.
“I played at Junior Wimbledon and was also in the Scotland junior international squad for badminton.”
But in 2003 at the age of 14, Pretswell decided to walk away from accompanying Murray on his climb to the top in tennis. She felt it was a sport that left her very little time for anything else in life and she knew that if she progressed to a university education, she would have had to give up tennis anyway.
So Pretswell switched from tennis to golf and proved just as naturally gifted with clubs as she had been with a racquet. Within a comparatively short space of time, Pretswell achieved a low handicap and was a regular choice for Scotland’s women’s international golf team.
She gained her first cap in the Women’s Home Internationals of 2007 and helped Scotland win the title in 2010 for the first time in 19 years. Earlier in 2010, she was a member of the Scotland team that took home bronze medals at the European Women’s Team Championship.
She made her debut for Great Britain and Ireland in the 2009 Vagliano Trophy against Continental Europe in Germany and a year later she earned a spot on the 2010 Curtis Cup Team for the Match at Essex County Club in Massachusetts.
Then she was a member of the five-strong GB&I team that beat Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada to win the once-every-four-years Astor Trophy tournament at Fairhaven Golf Club in England last June. The following week she played in her second Vagliano Trophy, this time at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, the same South Wales venue where nine-time USGA champion Tiger Woods competed for the United States in the 1995 Walker Cup Match.
Pretswell, 22, also won the Swiss Women’s Open Amateur on a 2009 holiday trip and in 2010 lost out by one stroke for the Austrian Women’s Open Amateur title.
But her individual highlight thus far has been winning the 2010 British Women’s Open Amateur Stroke-Play Championship at Tenby in South Wales – a considerable achievement, given that she did not turn to playing golf seriously until 2003.
“My ambition is to play golf professionally and my thoughts will turn to that later year,” said Pretswell, who retained her amateur status while competing, unsuccessfully, at Ladies European Tour Qualifying School last month.
Pretswell is not one for making excuses but it’s likely that she failed to gain playing rights on the LET because she was not entirely focused on the task in hand – a second appearance in this June’s Curtis Cup Match at The Nairn Golf Club was undoubtedly at the back of her mind. The Ladies Golf Union will select the eight-member GB&I side after a practice session in late March.
She has been a full-time amateur golfer since graduating with a business and management degree from Glasgow University last May. She still lives at her family home in Hamilton (Scotland’s Central Belt).
“The 2010 Curtis Cup was a phenomenal experience that I will never forget, whatever the future holds for me,” said Pretswell, who posted a 1-2-0 overall record in GB&I’s 12½-7½ loss to the Americans.
“The experience of playing alongside Danielle McVeigh in the four-ball against America's top players was fantastic. The standard of golf played that week at Essex County Club by all 16 players was incredible and I learned a lot from everyone. That inspired me, I’m sure, to step my golf up to the next level and win the British stroke-play title later in 2010.
“That week at Tenby, probably my ball striking was the key. The weather was pretty horrific most of the time and the wind was so strong it was important to strike the ball well to hold it up against the wind.
“My course management and club selection were also pretty good. With my dad caddieing, we plotted our way around the Tenby course, hitting some irons and woods off the tee when needed because with the way the wind was it was so important to keep the ball in play.”
Past British champion and Curtis Cup player she may be, Pretswell knows that she still has a lot to learn. After all, she has not been playing the game for nearly as long as most of her contemporaries on the international golf scene.
So failing to gain pass marks at the LET Q-School might turn out to her advantage in the long term.
The biggest short-term consolation is that she is a leading contender to play in her second Curtis Cup Match – and in her home country of Scotland.
Colin Farquharson is a Scottish-based freelance writer who serves as the Ladies Golf Union press officer at major competitions, including the Curtis Cup.