DEAL, N.J. – Stroke-play medalist and two-time defending champion Ellen Port, 52, of St. Louis, defeated Kimberly Briele, 53, of New Bern, N.C., 6 and 4, Monday in the first round of match play at the 2014 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, held at the 6,109-yard, par-73 Hollywood Golf Club.
Port, who won the stroke-play portion by nine strokes with a two-round total of 2-under-par 144, won four of the last five holes on the outward nine to take control against Briele and went on to record her 80th match-play victory in USGA competition.
“It was nice to build that lead because on the back (nine) a lot of things can happen,” said Port, who has won six USGA championships, including four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs. “I was a little off today, didn’t hit everything as well as I like, but I got the job done.”
Port, who closed out the match by winning holes 12, 13 and 14 with pars, halved the sixth hole with a birdie to ignite her run. After Briele chipped in from off the green for birdie, Port countered by making a 4-foot putt.
Martha Leach, a 3-and-2 winner over Claudia Pilot, 57, of Lake Shore, Minn., will renew her rivalry with Port in the Round of 32. Leach, who made pars to win the seventh and eighth holes, and birdied the 353-yard, par-4 11th in her first-round match against Pilot, narrowly lost to Port in the 2011 Women’s Mid-Amateur final.
“There’s no hidden secret,” said Leach, 52, of Hebron, Ky., about what makes Port a great champion. “She hits it far enough, she’s strong enough, but she is a great competitor.”
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship continues with the second and third rounds of match play on Tuesday. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be played on Wednesday. The championship concludes with an 18-hole final on Thursday, Sept. 18, starting at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
In a battle of California natives, Caryn Wilson, 53, of Rancho Mirage, held off Michelle Burgess, 51, of Rancho Santa Fe, 3 and 1. Wilson, the No. 2 seed in the match-play bracket, made a 57-footer from just off the green on the third hole to take a 2-up lead and never trailed in the match. Burgess cut the deficit in half at No. 12 with a birdie, but Wilson halved the next hole with 6-foot par putt and won No. 14 with a par to regain her advantage.
“I had two opponents today: Mickey (Burgess) and me,” said Wilson, who reached the semifinals last year in her first Senior Women’s Amateur. I felt uncomfortable over the ball, but I competed well.”
Andrea Kraus, the No. 4 seed, rallied for a 1-up victory against Marilyn Hardy, 52, of Houston. Kraus, 53, of Baltimore, was 1 down after 13 holes, but squared the match with a two-putt par at No. 14. She birdied the par-5 16th by holing a 6-footer and halved No. 17 with a par putt of similar length to stay ahead.
“I’m a fighter, a little bit tenacious,” said Kraus, who advanced to the Round of 32 for the third time. “My match-play skills are pretty good. I don’t give up.”
Helene Chartrand, who won this year’s Canadian Senior Women’s Amateur crown in a playoff, posted a 1-up win over No. 5 seed Brenda Pictor, 59, of Marietta, Ga. Chartrand, 58, of Canada, went in front by making a two-putt par from 60 feet at No. 14 and set up a birdie at the par-5 15th by reaching the green in two with a 5-wood.
“I hit my driver really good and hit some 5-woods and 3-woods that were terrific,” said Chartrand, who reached the Round of 32 for the second consecutive year. “I have to have composure and believe in myself.”
Two Senior Women’s Amateur champions met in the first round. Terri Frohnmayer, the 2011 winner, upended Carole Semple Thompson, who won four consecutive titles from 1999-2002, 6 and 4. Frohnmayer, 58, of Salem, Ore., won three holes on the outward nine and made two of her three birdies on holes 10 and 13. Thompson, a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee and seven-time USGA champion, advanced to match play for the 16th consecutive year.
Sherry Herman, the 2009 champion, regrouped from a four-hole deficit early in her match against Joanne Manley, 50, of England. Herman, 56, of Jackson, N.J., won three consecutive holes to begin the outward nine by making birdie at the par-5 10th and winning Nos. 11 and 12 with pars.
Mina Hardin, who won the 2010 Senior Women’s Amateur and was runner-up the following year, had an easier time with her opponent. Hardin, 54, of Mexico, dispatched Kathy Kurata, 53, of Pasadena, Calif., 6 and 5.
Judith Kyrinis, the No. 3 seed, and Pamela Kuong, the No. 6 seed, advanced in different ways. Kyrinis, 50, of Canada, won her match in 19 holes with a bogey-5 on No. 1. Her third shot from the right greenside bunker flew the green but she erased that mistake after reaching the putting surface with a 20-foot putt. Kuong, 53, of Wellesley Hills, Mass., registered a 2-and-1 decision by sinking a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 16 and hitting her tee shot to within 9 feet, leading to a par on No. 17.
“I had to stay patient,” said Kuong, who reached the Round of 16 last year at CordeValle. “I had three consecutive birdie putts (on the inward nine) that I just missed. I knew I could get at birdie at 16.”
Susan Cohn, last year’s Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up, easily defeated Sue Wooster, 52, of Australia, 5 and 4. Cohn, 51, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., birdied the eighth hole with a 10-foot putt and increased her lead to a three-hole advantage on the par-5 10th by hitting her approach, an 130-yard 7-iron, to within 2 feet.
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.
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