DEAL, N.J. – Ellen Port, 52, of St. Louis, and Brenda Pictor, 59, of Marietta, Ga., each carded an even-par 73 on Saturday and share a three-stroke advantage after the first day of stroke-play qualifying at the 2014 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, held at Hollywood Golf Club.
Port, the two-time defending U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion, missed only two fairways and made a pair of birdies on the inward nine during her morning round in breezy conditions. Her second shot from an awkward stance near a bunker on the par-5 12th led to a 3-foot birdie putt.
“That was a settling hole,” said Port, a six-time USGA champion with four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs titles on top of her pair of Senior Women’s Am wins. “I pulled off a really difficult shot.”
Port finished with a birdie on No. 18 when she hit a 177-yard 5-iron from the right rough to within 12 feet.
“The last three weeks, I have really worked hard on my game,” said Port, who captained the USA Curtis Cup Team to victory in June. “On the range, I probably have hit the ball as well as I have ever hit it. I feel really good with where my game is now.”
Pictor, who reached the Senior Women’s Amateur semifinals in 2012, made four birdies and four bogeys in the afternoon and had to contend with rainy weather after making the turn. She made birdies on 14 and 15 during her outward nine and struck a 101-yard wedge to close range to set up another on the par-4 fifth.
“I hit my irons really well today,” said Pictor, who found just one of the 160 bunkers on the 6,109-yard Walter Travis design. “When I missed a fairway, I laid up to wedge range and hit the green. I was accurate and fortunate to hit the right level (of the green).”
Pictor, who bogeyed her finishing hole, the 352-yard, par-4 eighth, hit only two drivers during the round and kept her ball in play.
“It’s been a bad club, so I am hiding it,” she said. “I have a good 3-wood that goes pretty well, one of those Phil Mickelson-stinger 3-woods.”
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, Sept. 18, starting at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
Competing in her first Senior Women’s Amateur and battling a virus which kept her from practicing on Friday, Louella Kanew, of South Africa, is among three players at 3-over 76. Kanew, 52, made an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 12 and set up another with a 115-yard pitching wedge on No. 14.
“I came out today not expecting much of myself,” said Kanew, who played collegiate tennis at the University of Texas. “[I] played a really good first nine, started to struggle, but I scraped it around.”
Pamela Kuong, 53, of Wellesley Hills, Mass., also turned in a 76, a round in which she putted well and made 14 pars. She birdied her first hole, the par-4 ninth, by making a 20-foot downhill putt.
“I didn’t have any three-putts, my lag putting was really good,” she said. “We (she and her caddie) were seeing the lines pretty well. You clearly have to leave it in the right spot, otherwise it can get away from you.”
Jamie Hoffmann, 52, of Escondido, Calif., borrowed her friend Corey Weworski’s putter, a club she used to win the 2004 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. She made three birdies to join Kanew and Kuong in the group with 76s.
Four players are tied at 4-over 77 and are four strokes off the pace. Marilyn Hardy, who advanced to the quarterfinals last year, made an up-and-down for par from the left greenside bunker on the second hole. She later sank a 6-footer for birdie on No. 12 after again playing out of the bunker 50 yards short of the green.
Susan Cohn, 51, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Sherry Herman, the 2009 champion, were two of several players at 5-over 78. Cohn, last year’s Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up, was steady with 13 pars and five bogeys. Herman, 56, of Jackson, N.J., had a more adventurous outward nine with two birdies, one double bogey and four bogeys.
“It’s almost two different golf tournaments,” said Cohn about stroke play and match play. “In medal play, you are just trying to avoid a big number. You have to play somewhat defensively at times.”
Caryn Wilson, 53, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., reached the semifinals in her first Senior Women’s Amateur last year. Wilson, who carded a 78, was one of 26 players in the first round to break 80.
The U.S. 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.