USGA Senior Women's: Match play begins
Ellen Port
Ellen Port

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Stroke-play medalist Akemi Khaiat, 50, of Japan, and defending champion Ellen Port, 52, of St. Louis, were among the 32 winners Monday in the first round of match play at the 52nd USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at CordeValle.

Khaiat, who is playing in her first Senior Women’s Amateur, won four consecutive holes on the opening nine and defeated Ellie Layton, of Rochester, Minn., 5 and 4, on the 5,996-yard, par-72 Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout.

“At the beginning, because of nerves, I wasn’t swinging well,” said Khaiat, a property investor who lives in Los Angeles and holds Japanese citizenship. “But at the end I got the rhythm back. It took a while but I hung around. I am just trying not to make a mistake.”

Khaiat made a trip last week to Japan to play in the Kanto State Senior Amateur and returned just before Saturday’s first day of the competition, too late for a practice round at CordeValle, and admitted that she had low expectations. Earlier this summer, she was the runner-up at the 2013 Japan Senior Women’s Amateur.

“Match play is so different,” said Khaiat, a seven-time club champion at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. “I am still learning. There is another match. There is still so much left.”

Port, a five-time USGA champion, including the 2012 Senior Women’s Amateur at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, won holes 15, 16 and 17 to come from behind to defeat Lisa Smego, of Olympia, Wash., 2 and 1.

“I was a totally different person from the two days of qualifying,” said Port, who will captain the 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team. “I was swinging too slow. But I focused on swinging hard and through and ramping up the volume. That was experience.”

Port said her considerable USGA championship background served her well in the up-and-down match.

“It looked like I was going to be up and instead she was up,” said the high school teacher and coach. “I’ve been in every situation in the last 25 years. I’ve come from behind and when I had a big lead and I see it go away. I can assess what’s going on with myself. When I see any warning signs – that I’m starting to think poorly, or I don’t think I can come back in this match – I remember it’s not over.”

Martha Leach, 51, of Hebron, Ky., the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, Mary Budke, 59, of Palm Springs, Calif., the 1972 U.S. Women’s Amateur winner, and Corey Weworski, 51, of Carlsbad, Calif., the 2004 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, also advanced.

In an all-Northern California match, Lynne Cowan, 50, of Rocklin, Calif., a golf sales representative who attended San Jose State, defeated Juvy Timan, 51, of Watsonville, Calif., 2 and 1.

“I didn’t play as well as I would have liked to,” Cowan said. “I putted well. I didn’t hit the ball very well. I scrambled quite a bit. But, I had this on my calendar for two and half years since the press release went out from the USGA. I sat down and said, when do I turn 50? I did the math, figured it out. This has been on my calendar and I have been anticipating it for quite a while.”

Only one other Northern California player advanced to the second round: Marianne Towersey of Pebble Beach, who defeated Carol Sarkissian, of Chino Hills, Calif., 5 and 3. Sandra Woodruff, of Santa Cruz, lost in 19 holes to Marilyn Hardy, of Houston, and Rachel Moreaux, of San Rafael, lost 2 down to Joan Higgins, of Glendora, Calif.

The second and third rounds of match play are scheduled for Tuesday with the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds set for Wednesday. The championship is scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, Sept. 26, starting at 8 a.m. (PDT)

In addition to Port, three other past championships won their matches and advanced to the second round: Sherry Herman, of Holmdel, N.J., who won in 2009, Mina Hardin, of Fort Worth, Texas, who won in 2010, and Terri Frohnmayer, of Salem, Ore., who won in 2011.

The USGA Senior Women’s Amateur, for players 50 years and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

ABOUT THE U.S. Senior Women's Amateur

The USGA Senior Women's Amateur is open to female golfers with a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 18.4, who will have reached their 50th birthday on or before the first day of the championship. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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