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Port begins quest for third USGA Senior Women’s Amateur championship

Port

Port

Ellen Port has had custody of the Senior Women’s Amateur Championship trophy for the past two years.

The tradition is that the current champion keeps it until the next tournament. It’s been an nice addition to Port’s collection of hardware she has won over the years.

Port, 52, of St. Louis, has won consecutive U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs and will attempt to make it three in row and hang onto the trophy for another year.

The 2014 tournament tees off Saturday (Sept. 13) and runs through Sept. 18 at the Hollywood Golf Club in Deal, N.J.

However, true to her nature, Port is not thinking of the third championship. There’s too much golf to be played before that.

“(I) Really don’t think about it at all and if it does creep into my mind, I will enjoy the thought for a moment, and then get back to the task at hand,” said Port, who turns 53 on Sept. 21. “I will say that I do dream of winning all the time and visualize doing so. It all starts in between the ears and in the heart.”

Port will be playing in her 51st United States Golf Association championship. She owns a 79-24 career match-play record.

The USGA Senior Women’s Amateur is for players 50 years and older. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA.

The Hollywood Golf Club will be set up at 6,109 yards and will play to a par of 73. Designed by three-time U.S. Amateur champion Walter Travis, Hollywood Golf Club opened for play in 1918. Rees Jones did a complete renovation to the course in 1998.

This will be the second USGA championship at the club, following the 1921 U.S. Women’s Amateur won by Marion Hollins.

The course is not familiar to Port. What she does know is the USGA only chooses premier places to play its events.

“I have not played Hollywood but my friends from New Jersey say it is a fantastic course,” Port said. “I think the USGA picks some of the best courses for the Senior Championship. Hershy Country Club was my first and last year Corde Valle in California was superb.”

Port has an excellent history of competing well in USG event.

She is the only four-time winner of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. Port captained the 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team to a 13-7 victory over Great Britain and Ireland. It was the 38th time the event has been conducted.

Last year, Port defeated Susan Cohn, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 3 and 2. It was an emotional win for Port, who came into the championship having lost her father-in-law, Robert Port.

Port, who is 12-0 in matches in this championship over two years, became the first player to win in back-to-back years since Diane Lang in 2005 and 2006. Seven other players have won in consecutive years in the history of the championship. Carolyn Cudone has the record with five consecutive championships from 1968 through 1972.

She begins her quest for a third championship at 8:10 (CDT) a.m. Saturday on hole No. 1. Port will be playing with Tanna Richard, of Fort Smith, Ark.; and Donna McHugh, of Montville, N.J. Port’s tee time Sunday is 12:25 (CDT) p.m. and she will begin on the back nine.

Regardless of the outcome, 2014 has been a memorable year for Port.

It all began with the Curtis Cup.

“It is impossible to name everything that stands out about the Curtis Cup,” Port said. “There is so much but a few things are

the generosity of the St. Louis Country Club membership and staff, the many wonderful volunteers that helped out from the St. Louis community, and the winsome USA team who not only played incredible golf and regained the Cup but who were so friendly and positive with everyone who attended the event or volunteered, particularly the youngsters. My team was simply great with the kids. They set great examples of how this game should always be played.

“Also meeting Tegwen Mathews, the Great Britain captain, Anna (Hubbard), the team manager and all of the fine young women who played for Great Britain, and, of course, sharing all of this with my family and friends. Being the hometown captain was a thrill and huge honor.”

Playing-wise, Port had had a good summer.

She won her ninth Missouri Women’s Amateur state title. In addition, Port won her 13th Metropolitan Women’s Amateur championship. She missed the cut in the U.S. Amateur qualifying.

But as a teacher at John Burroughs, she is a tough grader.

“It can always be better,” she said about her summer. “I have never arrived and never will. So the journey continues. Each year I have to resurrect the game. I got a late start t his year and didn’t really work hard on my game until the last couple of weeks. I am gaining on things and doing a lot of things very well.”

Port usually plays in three or four events each year. That includes playing in two local or state tournament and then one or two national events.

“That’s not very much golf but the positive side to this is I have never burned out,” Port said.

Now it’s time for the Senior Amateur. Is she set to go?

“I honestly don’t know if I ever go into a tournament feeling ready,” Port said. “I simply don’t have the opportunity to compete and play my way into shape or the time to practice the way I would like to in order to be thoroughly prepared for an event like this. However, this is where mental toughness must take over  as well as the will to win.

“Golf is funny really. Sometimes when I feel the most ready, I end up not playing that well, and sometimes when I arrive to an event a little off, I turn it around and have considerable success.”

So she believes her game can carry her through the tournament.

“At this point I will believe that my game is the best in the world — no concerns,” Port said. “Only confidence at this point.”

Her place in USGA women’s history is established with six titles. While she does on dwell on it, others do.

“Initially I would say I don’t think about it much but since it does keep getting brought up, I more or less have embraced this reality and simply have an attitude of gratitude,” Port said. “I am still overwhelmed at the thought of winning this many USGA titles and I am sure will always will.”

JoAnne Gunderson Carner has more championships with eight than Port. She is tied her with Glenna Collett Vare and Hollis Stacy for fourth place on the all-time USGA women’s win list. Carol Semple Thompson and Anne Quast Sander have each won seven championships.

“I don’t put myself up at their level because they’re the greatest in the game at their level,” said Port, who had been tied   with Juli Inkster and Mickey Wright before winning last year. “But, I’m very blessed in what I’ve been able to accomplish in a short time, and I’m thrilled.”

That being said, she is still playing so you never know what may happen.

“I am a competitor at heart,” said Port, who plays a limited schedule due to family and teaching commitments. “I love the thrill of hitting shots when they matter. And I love the spirit of amateurism.”

However, reaching Carner’s number is not something she sets as a goal to reach.

“You never should set a limit like that,” Port said. “It could actually keep you from  going beyond that. I am amazed that I ever won one match play event. It is a marathon — two days of qualifying and six matches — double rounds on a couple of days. So many things have to come together for the person who wins.”

The keys to having a successful tourney are basic, Port said.

“Patience, perseverance, peace, joy and gratitude,” Port said. “And confidence.”

Her husband and two children will not be going with her to the tournament.

Her Bombers golf team will do fine without her. They will be playing Saturday in the Angel Classic.

“The girls are busy juggling the demands of their lives. Golf is just one piece of the equation,” Port said. “I think if you asked each player they would say they are not content with where they are with their game. They are working hard and smart and have great attitudes.”

Port, a teacher and golf coach at John Burroughs School, is a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.

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