SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Defending champion Ellen Port, of St. Louis, and Susan Cohn, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., each won two matches Wednesday to advance to the final of the 52nd USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at CordeValle.
Port, 52, is vying for her sixth USGA title after defeating Mary Jane Hiestand, 54, of Naples, Fla., 4 and 3, in the afternoon semifinals. Cohn, 50, and playing in her first USGA championship in 21 years, beat Caryn Wilson, 52, of Rancho Mirage, 4 and 3, in her semifinal match.
“Unbelievable,” said Port, a high school teacher and golf coach, who is 11-0 in matches in this championship over two years. “Sometimes you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and then you wake up and ‘Oh my gosh, and then there were two.’ ”
Port has the chance to join some of the elite names in women’s golf with a victory. Her sixth USGA title would tie her with Glenna Collett Vare and Hollis Stacy, and leave her behind only JoAnne Gunderson Carner, who tops the list with eight, and Carol Semple Thompson and Anne Quast Sander, who have each won seven.
She is also trying to become the first player to win in back-to-back years since Diane Lang won in 2005 and 2006. Carolyn Cudone has the record with five consecutive championships from 1968 through 1972.
Port, who won the title in 2012 at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, took a 3-up lead over Hiestand through seven holes and increased it to 4 up through 10 at the 5,996-yard, par-72 Robert Trent Jones Jr. course.
She credits solid ball-striking as well as being single-minded and having good caddie assistance for advancing to the championship match.
“Each match has its own flavor and its own dynamic,” said Port, who is the captain of the USA Team for the 2014 Curtis Cup Match. “Sometimes it’s pretty. Sometimes, it’s ugly and sometimes, it’s a birdie fest. So, I am going to take whatever I have and do what I have been doing.”
Cohn, who works in a golf shop, has quietly earned her way to the title match. She defeated 2009 Senior Women’s Amateur champion Sherry Herman in the third round in 19 holes, and 2004 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Corey Weworski, of Carlsbad, Calif., in the quarterfinals in 20 holes.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Cohn, who has won 10 Palm Beach County Amateur titles and rarely plays competitively, having last played in a USGA championship at the 1992 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. “To play in a USGA event is a privilege. To play well is the icing on the cake.”
Cohn, admittedly a shorter hitter, took the lead for good on the eighth hole against Wilson, a former professional golfer and tennis player. She won the 14th and 15th holes on Wilson bogeys to win the match.
“I put a little more importance on the holes that are shorter because I have an easier chance to make birdie,” said Cohn, who earned four letters in golf at the University of North Carolina after making the team as a walk-on. “On the longer holes, I take it for what it is. I have to hit woods. I have to get it up and down.”
In the morning quarterfinals, Port, who has won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur four times, defeated Marilyn Hardy, 52, of Houston, 5 and 4.
In the other quarterfinal matches, Hiestand defeated Liz Waynick, 53, of Scottsdale, Ariz., 5 and 3, and Wilson topped 2010 champion Mina Hardin, 53, of Fort Worth, Texas, 5 and 3.
All quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2014 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur, to be played Sept. 13-18 at Hollywood Golf Club in Deal, N.J.
The championship is scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, Sept. 26, starting at 8 a.m. (PDT). The champion receives a gold medal and custody of the Senior Women’s Amateur Championship Trophy for one year.