Port looking forward to defending U.S. Mid-Amateur championship
By: Warren Mayes
The 26th annual United States Golf Association Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship begins Saturday (Oct. 6) and four-time champion Ellen Port will look for a fifth title.
The tourney will be held at Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio. There are 12 past champions in the field. The average age of the field is 44.4 years.
Port scored a huge victory for her last month. The St. Louis native won the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship in her first attempt. She defeated Jane Fitzgerald, of Kensington, Md., 4 and 3 to win the title at the par-74, 6,220-yard Hershey Country Club West Course in Hershey, Pa.
“I’m coming off a nice win,” Port said about her Senior title before leaving for Texas. “My confidence is way up. It’s an honor to be another USGA champion. I have a medal and a flag in the same (calendar) year that I won the Mid-Am. I am so shocked and ecstatic.”
Port, who teaches at John Burroughs, acknowledged she had good feeling going into the Senior Amateur.
“People just naturally say you’ll win it or you’re a favorite,” Port said. “For me to put all that aside and hit the shot and do what I needed to do to win it, it was very rewarding. There are no guarantees.
“To hold both championships at the same time is something I never thought about. To win you’re first one is special.”
That win elevated Port to some stellar company. She takes her place among the most prolific USGA women’s champions with names such as Joanne Carner, Glenna Collett Vare and Mickey Wright.
“It’s great,” Port said. “I’m a puny fish in a puddle, not even a big fish in a pond, but the thing is we all have it in common.”
Now, she’s out to defend her championship in a tourney she likes a lot.
Last year, Port won her record fourth U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur on the day after her 50th birthday, defeating longtime friend and past champion Martha Leach, 2 and 1, in the championship match at Bayville Golf Club in Virginia Beach, Va.
Port has competed often in the Mid-Amateur tournament with great success as her four titles shows. She began playing golf in 1986 and the Mid-Amateur began in 1987.
“I was 24. I was my first introduction to USGA tournaments,” Port said. “I’ve grown up with it. It’s the tourney I’ve played a number of times.”
She would like to win No. 5 this year.
“That has a nice ring to it,” Port quipped. “I’m looking for a ring for every finger.”
She knows the younger women competing will pose a big challenge for her.
“We’re the older guard. You have to be realistic with the seniors,” Port said. “You lose a little distance. You have experience and touch. What’s neat about it is a I look at it is the older players have wisdom and past success in the tournament.
“There will be a lot of past champions and women who love the game playing in the tournament. It very rich in personality and character.”
Port left St. Louis after the high school district tournament earlier this week to go to Texas and play the course before the tournament begins.
“I’ve heard wonderful things about Briggs Ranch,” Port said. “It has zoysia fairways like what I play on at Sunset Hills Country Club. It’s a Tom Fazio design so you know it will be tough.”
Port has not played much since winning the women’s senior amateur. However, she said that shouldn’t be a problem.
“I’m ready. I’ll get ready when the plane lands,” Port said. “I was emotionally spent. I needed a break. I’m not used to playing eight days of golf. I’ve done this my whole career. I’ve learned how to get ready for a tournament.”
Briggs Ranch Golf Club was designed in 2002 by Fazio and is currently ranked as the Best Residential Course in Texas by Golfweek magazine. The private club on the western edge of San Antonio will play 6,142 yards (par 72) for the championship.
Port was introduced to the game at age 24, by her husband, Andy.
She has won seven Missouri State Amateurs and 13 St. Louis Metropolitan Amateurs in addition to her Women’s Senior and Mid-Amateur titles, all while raising two children and serving as both a teacher and coach at John Burroughs.
“I love everything about being a USGA champion,” said Port. “I know at my age I can’t go out and practice for hours and hours anymore, but I’ve played a lot of matches and once the competitive juices get flowing I’ll be ready to go. I’m very excited to try to do it again.”