WELLESLEY, MA (September 22, 2016) -- Ellen Port is now one of the greatest USGA champions of all-time.
Port, 55, of St. Louis, won her seventh USGA championship on Thursday at Wellesley Country Club, defeating fellow 55-year-old Andrea Kraus, of Baltimore, 3 and 2, in the 18-hole final of the 55th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship on the par-74, 6,049-yard Donald Ross layout.
It is Port’s third Senior Women’s Amateur title; she also won in 2012 and 2013, in addition to capturing four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs, in 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2011.
With her seventh win, Port tied Anne Sander and World Golf Hall of Fame member Carol Semple Thompson. Among women, she trails only another Hall of Famer, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, who has captured eight USGA championships.
“Fantastic,” said Port. “It’s always great to win a USGA championship. You work so hard to get here and it’s just so special when you can finish it off.”
In addition to Carner, only Bob Jones (9), Tiger Woods (9) and Jack Nicklaus (8) have won more USGA championships than Port.
Port’s 7-1 record is the best winning percentage among females who have reached six or more USGA finals. Thompson is 7-3, Glenna Collett Vare is 6-2, and Carner is 6-3. On Wednesday night, Port received a text of encouragement from Thompson.
“It’s mind-boggling,” said Port. “I’m definitely not in that league. [Anne and Carol] are both good friends of mine. Carol drummed me the first time I played in an [amateur] event. She beat me 6 and 5 at the [Women’s] Western. She was a legend and we sat down and had lunch. I’ve learned a lot from her and respect her.
“It’s just a real honor.”
Port receives a gold medal and custody of the Senior Women’s Amateur trophy for one year. She also receives a 10-year exemption to the Senior Women’s Amateur, and exemptions into the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championships. Kraus, who was competing in her first final in 26 USGA match-play appearances, receives a silver medal and a three-year Senior Women’s Amateur exemption. She also is exempt into next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. The competition began with 36 holes of stroke play last weekend, with the low 64 advancing to match play. Competitors had to win five matches over three days to reach Thursday’s 18-hole final.
Port’s only previous meeting with Kraus came 21 years ago in the 1995 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Essex County Club in nearby Manchester-by-the-Sea, where Port won the match and went on to claim her first USGA championship.
In a tight, back-and-forth final at Wellesley, Port took control with winning pars on Nos. 10 and 14, the latter on an 8-foot putt. Port closed out the match on the 16th hole with a two-putt from 30 feet that prevailed over Kraus’ missed 10-footer for par.
Port was the equivalent of 2 under par over 16 holes, with the usual match-play concessions, including a 30-foot birdie on the par-3 12th hole that Kraus matched from half that distance.
“Ellen is amazing,” said Kraus. “She’s a lovely human being and I give her incredible kudos. She’s got a family, she does it all.”
Kraus started strong by stuffing her approach on the par-4 first hole to 3 feet for a winning birdie. But she gave it back with an errant tee shot on the third hole that stopped inches from going out of bounds. A double-bogey 6 squared the match.
Kraus regained the lead on the next hole when Port missed a 4-foot downhill par putt. Port won Nos. 7 and 8 with conceded birdies for a 1-up lead, but Kraus came back with her best shot of the match, a wedge to a foot for a conceded birdie on the par-5 ninth. It would be the last hole she would win. She wound up the equivalent of 4 over for the match.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle all week with my swing,” said Kraus, who went extra holes twice on Wednesday to reach the final, defeating medalist Judith Kyrinis in the quarterfinals (21 holes) and defending champion Karen Garcia in the semis (19 holes). “It was sheer grit and determination that really got me here. Maybe yesterday took a little out of me. I didn’t really have my best game, but I had the best that I could do today.
“I wish I could bring home the trophy because Ellen has had it so many times. But that’s because she’s great. This was so exciting. I’m delighted [with my week].”
Port now returns to her duties as the head women’s golf coach at Washington University in St. Louis. Her team already owns one victory in 2016 and has a tournament that begins on Friday at Illinois Wesleyan. She also still teaches at the John Burroughs School, a private high school.
“My team has been texting me and they’ve been having way more fun at practice since I’ve been gone,” said Port. “The captains have been in charge and they have a trick-shot video that they created. I would not be sitting here if both of my employers had not allowed me to play and continue to compete. So I am very grateful.”