WICHITA, KAN. (Sept. 27, 2010) -- Medalist Ellen Port, 49, of St. Louis isn’t taking anything for granted in the 2010 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, despite her history in the event.
Port, a physical education teacher and coach at John Burroughs High School in St. Louis, has won the championship three times and earned medalist honors for a record fourth time Sunday. Still, none of that allowed her to take her first-round match-play against Lea Anne Brown, 51, of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., lightly.
“For me, I haven’t played match play in awhile – in about a year,” said Port. “We had a really good match. She’d make an up and down and I would make an up and down. She would make a putt and then I would make a putt. To be honest, I expected that.”
Port outlasted Brown, 4 and 2, on the sun-soaked 6,209-yard, par-72 Wichita Country Club layout Monday. It marked her 49th career match-play victory in the championship, leaving her seven behind all-time leader Carol Semple Thompson.
In a seesaw match, Port never trailed but did have to hold off Brown much of the way. The turning point came at the 137-yard par-3 11th. Brown, who had cut Port’s lead to 1 up on the previous hole, took the teeing ground and knocked her ball into the water. Port then flew the green and was facing a delicate downhill chip. Brown applied pressure by sticking her next shot from the drop zone to within 3 feet of the hole. Port’s chip stopped 6 feet past the flagstick, but she converted the par-saving putt to go 2 up.
“That’s what’s fun out there,” said Port, who coaches boys golf and girls field hockey. “That was the key part of the match.”
In a high-profile match between two past champions, Meghan Stasi, 32, of Oakland Park, Fla., relied on her length off the tee to dispatch Joan Higgins, 54, of Glendora, Calif., 4 and 2.
Stasi, who won the championship in 2006 and 2007, jumped to a 1-up lead on the first hole after converting a 50-foot birdie putt. Higgins won No. 2 before Stasidrained a 20-footer on the third hole for another birdie. Higgins cut her lead to one hole through eight holes, but Stasi had a bend-but-don’t-break attitude. Higgins, the 2008 champion, never got any closer.
“It’s not over until it’s in the hole,” said Stasi, brushing aside her advantage off the tee.
In one of the day’s closest matches, 2004 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Carolyn Creekmore, 58, of Dallas, defeated Shirley Trier, 40, of Hartville, Ohio, on the 18th hole with a 4-foot par putt.
Neither player led by more than 2 up. Creekmore and Trier both shot 80 with the usual match play concessions.
“If I play like this the rest of the way,” said Creekmore, “I will not win. … It’s not like she played terrible. She actually played better than I did.”
Earlier in the day, Robin Burke, 48, of Houston, eliminated 39-year-old Kay Daniel of Covington, La., 5 and 4. Burke went 4 up through the first six holes before Daniel clawed her way back, reducing the deficit to 2 down. Burke carded seven bogeys and felt fortunate to get the victory. She won two holes with bogeys.
"I hit a lot of bad shots. It was not a good ball-striking day. Neither of us played very well. But in match play, you're always going to have one bad round. Hopefully this was it for me," said Burke.
Asked what poor ball-striking does to the confidence, Burke said, "Your confidence feels like someone stepped on you like a grape."
Burke will face 50-year-old Mina Hardin of Fort Worth, Texas, in the second round. Hardin disposed of Michelle Griffith, 29, of LaGrange, Ga., 8 and 6. Griffith is the daughter of two-time U.S. Senior Open champion Allen Doyle.
Past champion Corey Weworski of Carlsbad, Calif., defeated Pamela Kuong, 49, of Wellesley, Mass., 5 and 4. Weworski, who won the 2004 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, broke a deadlock on the 298-yard par-4 fifth hole when she parred and Kuong took a bogey.
Weworski thought the key to the match came on No. 12 when she drained a par-saving 15-footer to increase her lead to 3 up.
“I stayed steady, stayed calm and made some key putts,” said Weworski. “Plus, I played intelligent golf today. It’s fun when you don’t have to scramble.
“This is all fun golf. The stress from the last two days is over.”
After holding a 3-up margin through the first 12 holes, 35-year-old Wendi Golden of Bradenton, Fla., watched as Karen Garcia, 48, of Cool, Calif., gradually erased her advantage. Garcia squared things on the par-3 17th hole when Golden three-putted from 70 feet and Garcia knocked in a 6-footer for par.
Golden won, 1 up, on the 18th hole thanks to a 63-foot chip-in from off the green. Golden used a sling-shot approach and watched as the ball hit a ridge and slowly rolled back and into the hole.
For the mother of two young daughters who works two jobs, the chip-in brought relief. Golden used the practice and stroke-play rounds as a tune-up because she hasn’t been able to work on her game that much.
“She was a lot longer than me,” said Golden, a quarterfinalist last year. “She was hitting 3-woods past my driver all day. … She gave me a couple of gifts. I do feel lucky.”
Other notable players to advance were Laura Coble, 46, of Augusta, Ga., who was last year’s runner-up; 2003 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Amber Marsh Elliott, 41, of Greensboro, N.C.; three-time USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Diane Lang, 55, of Weston, Fla.; Kerry Postillion, 47, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Thuhashini Selvaratnam, 34, of Tempe, Ariz.