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Port set to defend her title in U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship

By: Warren Mayes

If Ellen Port is a little rusty when she tees it up in the 56th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship there’s a good reason for it.

“I played in no tournaments this summer,” Port said. “I haven’t played an event since I won last year.

“I won’t know (about my game) until I tee it up. I have not played particular well when I did play an occasional round. Hopefully, I will be able to find my game during the practice round.”

The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship begins Saturday (Sept. 9) and runs through Sept. 14 at Waverley Country Club, Portland, Ore.

Waverley Country Club will be set up at 5,836 yards and will play to a par of 36-36–72. The yardage for each round of the championship will vary due to course setup and conditions.

The Senior Women’s Amateur consists of 18 holes of stroke play Saturday (Sept. 9) and 18 holes of stroke play on Sunday, after which the field will be reduced to the low 64 scorers. There will then be six rounds of match play, starting Monday. The championship is scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday.

Port will begin play at 9:25 (PDT) a.m. Saturday on No. 1. Her Sunday tee time will be at 2:10 p.m. on No. 10.

Her playing partners will be Jeanne Goodwin, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Port and Dori Eastwood, of Lexington, Ky.

Last fall, Port, won her seventh United States Golf Association (USGA) championship at Wellesley Country Club, defeating Andrea Kraus, of Baltimore, Md., 3 and 2, in the 18-hole final of the 55th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship on the par-74, 6,049-yard Donald Ross layout in Massachusetts.

The win marked Port’s third Senior Women’s Amateur title; she also won in 2012 and 2013, in addition to capturing four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs, in 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2011.

It was a win Port said she has not forgotten.

“I remember the turning points in the matches, the hospitality of Wellesley Country Club, the great players That crossed my path during match play, pivotal holes in each match, the friends that helped me celebrate when I returned,” Port said.

One of the most decorated golfers in USGA championship history, in addition to her seven USGA championship titles, Port represented the United States’ team in two Curtis Cups (1994 and 1996).

She is an eight-time Missouri State Amateur champion and 13-time St. Louis Metropolitan champion.

In 2012, she was inducted into both the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.

She also captained the victorious USA Team in the 2014 Curtis Cup Match at St. Louis Country Club.

Port is the head women’s golf coach at Washington University in St. Louis, a role she accepted after nearly 30 years of teaching and coaching at John Burroughs High School.

With her seventh USGA title, Port tied Anne Sander and World Golf Hall of Fame member Carol Semple Thompson.

Among women, she trails only another Hall of Famer, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, who has won eight USGA championships.

Counting the men as well, Port is just behind: Bobby Jones and Tiger Woods, who both have nine championships; and Carner and Jack Nicklaus, who each have eight titles.

Getting asked by people about being in such elite company is something Port takes in stride.

“It’s an honor for sure to be alongside these great professional and amateur players,” Port said.

Port’s 7-1 record is the best among female players who have reached six or more USGA finals. Thompson is 7-3, Glenna Collett Vare 6-2, and Carner 6-3.

Port knows better than to go into a tournament predicting a win.

“I am not consciously trying to play to eight,” Port said. “I think that strategy would backfire. I always play to win against old man par and myself.

“I have a big challenge ahead of myself – to resurrect my game and competitive spirit when I need it.”

Port long ago played Waverley County Club in a U.S. Amateur.

“I don’t remember a thing about the course, which is unusual,” Port said. “I was in the thick of being a new mom so I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

Her game plan is simple.

“To play with grit and gratitude and to have opportunity to play,” Port said.

The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship was inaugurated in 1962 for female golfers age 50 and older.

In 1896, Waverley Country Club became the second private golf club established west of the Mississippi River. H. Chandler Egan designed the present course on the east bank of the Willamette River between 1912 and 1924, and the two-time U.S. Amateur champion continued to make improvements to the classic layout until his death in 1936. Gil Hanse completed a course restoration in 2012.

A starting field of 132 players will compete in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. Following 18-hole rounds of stroke play on Sept. 9-10, the field will be cut to the top 64 players for match play. Five 18-hole rounds of match play will determine the finalists, who will square off in an 18-hole championship match.

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