USA Team Pre-Match Press Conference

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks for coming to the 38th Curtis Cup here, we are here with Captain Ellen Port of the USA.  To her left we have Ally McDonald and to her right we have Mariah Stackhouse.  We'll start with Captain Port, the week is finally here.  How are you feeling?

ELLEN PORT:  Great.  Great.  Confident in my girls.  Appreciative for all the club has done for us, and really respectful of our GB&I Team, it's been neat getting to know them.

The MODERATOR:  You were here about six weeks ago for a practice round, and you've known since March you were going to be on the team.  What does it mean to finally be here?

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  It means a lot to finally be here with the team and representing our country.  I've been looking forward to this, and I think it's even better because we feel at home and I think that's important.

I think that was a big help in coming out here last month and getting a chance to know the course, know the members.  So it feels like we are coming back and we are ready to get to business from the beginning.

THE MODERATOR:  And Ally, what's it been like so far?  You've been here since Sunday and you've had time out on the course getting ready for tomorrow.  What's the feeling been like all week?

ALLY McDONALD:  You know, it has not really felt like it's time yet, but it's crazy that it is.  We've been preparing since Sunday playing the golf course and I think that's been really, really important for us that we have spent a lot of time playing rather than chipping around and doing stuff like that.

So I definitely think everyone is going to be ready come tomorrow.

Q.  There was a point in the 80s where The Ryder Cup was really not a big deal until the other side started winning once in awhile.  This has gone back and forth a little bit, but does the fact that the other side won last time, add a little bit of sizzle or motivation or something to this event?

ALLY McDONALD:  I think it does.  You're definitely representing the United States on your home soil.  You do not want to lose.  And I think that's a big mind‑set that you can have when you play, but we're not out here to play not to lose.  You know, we are going to play to win, and I have full confidence in this team and I know that if we all play to the best of our ability, we will win.

ELLEN PORT:  I don't have any sympathy for that record at all, because a score like that doesn't reflect and tell you how close a lot of those matches are and what kind of competitors that those girls are.  I'm never one to take lightly that and the spirit of it.

I've experienced a tie and a loss so I think our team is ready to bring a win to Captain Port and the United States.

Q.  Is that extra motivation for you, Ellen, the fact that you're experience ‑‑

ELLEN PORT:  No, we don't need motivation to be our best and try to win.  It's fun to look back and think about all those records and use that to fan the flame and fuel it.

But really, I know I'm like this and I think my team feels this way, too; that it's not about beating another opponent.  It's about trying to be the best you can be.  I feel like if everybody is doing that, the competition is going to be great.

Q.  Do either of you know much about the history of this event?  You go down the list of players, it's a Who's Who of women's golf.

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  I think definitely, beginning with the pre‑session that we had back in January, that's when we really began to learn a lot about the actual history.

Like Captain had a PowerPoint ready for us to show us and get everybody motivated about what it meant, not only to represent your country, but to take part in this rich tradition.  And so we definitely learned a lot about that.

Coming here this weekend, I think just seeing and having already run into a lot of the past players that are here, and they still share that bond with this tournament.

You know, we had some nice video from some past players shown to us earlier and all they said was:  You know, this going to be the week of your life and you're always going to remember it.  Just take the time to let it sink in, and you can just tell by how everybody is so passionate about this event; that everybody that partook in it, whether players, or USGA members that took part in the event, it's special.

We are learning a lot about the history and we are ready to take part in it.

ALLY McDONALD:  Yeah, I just have to back up with what Mariah said.  It's going to be fun, and to have our names added alongside great players, it's going to be great.  We're going to have a great weekend.

Q.  What kind of PowerPoint did you put together?

ELLEN PORT:  Well, I can't take all the credit for it.  Jim Healey helped me and my son helped me.  I did learn how to delete and remove slides.  We started with Harriot and Margaret Curtis and just went through a couple pictures.  I wanted them to see how great these uniforms are, as opposed to what Harriet and Margaret played, and all the GB&I players.  It started there.  They started liking me a lot right then.

And then just took it through showing some pictures of the fans so they could capture some excitement of what the fans had.  We had some pictures of that.

We had some pictures of Patty Berg's galleries, so you could see the galleries coming right up behind you with the ropes and catching a flavor of that and we had of course their pictures on because PowerPoint was shown to a lot of people, not them as much.  Had a couple quotes about St. Louis Country Club on there.

I really felt it was important that they understand this golf course; and therefore, from the Founders Day tournament, when I had them have a competition and try to remember the names of the first nine holes, and they are on the floor trying to put those things in order; and to understand that this is a special place and that golf is bigger than just their little world and our little world.

So that's kind of what the PowerPoint was supposed to do, give them some history, bring them up to the present, show them the blue on the leaderboard last year when the singles matches swayed to the other side and get them fired up about coming, and the community. 

That's one reason I did that; to get everybody excited about this.

Q.  For both of the players, and I know you were here for the Women's Am, you went to the baseball game on Monday.  Realizing that golf is your focus of being here, have you experienced St. Louis in any other way besides the baseball game?  And I'm assuming this is your first time to St. Louis; tell me what you knew about St. Louis before you arrived here.

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  I knew it was hot.  That's what a lot of people had told me.  You know, I guess I didn't really know too much about St. Louis as a city.  Actually it's been really nice being here.  The arch is famous.  So that's me.  That's what I think about immediately?

Q.  Have you ever seen it in person?

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  We've been in it.  We got to go up, I think that was Monday afternoon before the baseball game and that was a treat.  Getting inside the egg was a little scary actually.  I was like, is this going to get us to the top, and then it starts tilting and I'm like, oh, boy, we're in for one.

But it was definitely really cool to get up there and look out to both sides of the city and look back towards the Mississippi.  So that was really cool.

And the baseball game was a lot of fun and I'm glad that Captain took that time at the beginning of the week which is kind of when we have our most free time to let us get a feel of St. Louis and the people.  The baseball game was such a treat, getting to stand out in the field and I think Ally got a ball from one of the players, so that was the highlight.  It was a lot of fun.

Q.  You talk about having met some past players and the history.  How many of them have kind of guided you on the importance of winning this time around?

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  I'd say the players, they say, you know ‑‑ they never say, you know, win.  But what they all talk about is how special it is to win.

So it's never, you know, about getting it back.  It's about enjoying yourself and winning it for your country, and I think there's a lot of emphasis placed on that.  I got to meet Miss Carol Semple Thompson, Captain introduced me to her on the course yesterday, and that was ‑‑ that in itself, just meeting them and seeing how passionate they are about it, that's enough to get us worked up and we're like, we have to bring that Cup home.  That's what we're here for.  We love each other and we want to win together; for captain, for each other, for America, for home.

It's not so much about the pressure but motivating to do it; but just their presence and knowing their history is inspiring enough to make us go out and play hard.

Q.  We have rain in the forecast.  Good news is it will be softer and players can be more aggressive but bad news it plays a little longer.  Talk about how it may be different than what was anticipated or hoped for?

ELLEN PORT:  Might be better to direct to these guys.  They have not seen it hard and firm, which is a great way to play this golf course, as well.  And when the greens firm up and hold ‑‑ when we saw harder conditions in the spring. 

When we think about No. 2, I saw a ball hit on the top shelf of two, just on the downslope, and actually go down back over the back of the hill of No. 2.  And now I think it's actually playing a little better.  I think it's a little more conducive to the way these girls are used to playing.  I don't want to use the word fair but I'm pleased with it.

I would ‑‑ it's a little soft but hopefully we won't get anymore rain that will make it, you know, that Tim won't be able to do what he wants to with the greens.  I foresee it being excellent, excellent conditions.

Yeah, we would like to all get up on the hill on No. 4, and No. 11 we would like to hit a little less club into.  And the girls, I think that's where I'm so at peace at their ability to make these adjustments and not get thrown off by course conditions changing.  These guys are champions, they are the best at what they do.  So I really, that's the least of my worries right now, yeah, I think it will be fine.

Q.  Who did you get the ball from?

ALLY McDONALD:  I think his name was Mike Moustakas.

ELLEN PORT:  He flipped it to her and then we went out and threw the pitch and then she wanted to ask me, after the anthem, can I go get his autograph and I'm like, sure

So she's over at the Royals bench and they are behind time and they want to start the game and the guy is like, get her away from there.

ALLY McDONALD:  He was coming over to sign it, though.  (Laughter).

ELLEN PORT:  These guys don't take no for an answer very well.  When they want something ‑‑ this is what I love about this team, and these two in particular, when they want something, they usually get it.  So I feel really good about that.

Q.  What are some of the nuances of this course that you really felt are important that the players needed to know when you came earlier for the practice session?

ELLEN PORT:  Good question.  Well, everybody talks about the greens.  You have two types of players that play St. Louis.  People that are not really golfers and they think this is a goofy course because there's so much going on.  People that are real players, they are like, oh, my gosh, they have so much respect for this golf course and what CB was trying to do.

I had not played it that much, but the greens, I always quote this, it's in my PowerPoint; that the greens are to a golf course like a face is to a portrait.  That's what CB thought, how important they were.

Obviously that, but definitely the complete package.  I'm not one it to say it's all about the greens, because I saw a couple of my players in the left bunker on No. 6 that they didn't know was there.  That's not good.

And I was really actually glad to see a couple players in the rough today because the rough is a little thicker.  The conditions, I wanted them to experience when the rough is healthy; you know, it makes ‑‑ if you miss a little fairway, there's so many little nuances that they are letting the grass grow up around the collars of the green, and you need to work a little on that putt or the bladed shot.  The topography is amazing.

The subtleties of 13 and 15, No. 6; if you are a little left on that, and you think you have a good ball and it goes into the rough.  So this course is the complete package.  You have to think on this golf course.

And that's why I'm not a micromanager.  I've had more fun watching these guys think, and I don't think they got it ‑‑ during practice session, when I played our match with the guys, I was like, shoot, don't they know on 9 that it's better to chunk your approach and be five yards short than to hit a perfect shot over the pin and be 12 feet above No. 9; we lost a hole.

I wanted to run and tell them that, right there and I said, okay, better, less coaching I say.  They figured it out.  They get it.  So we are ready to go.  But great question, and I hope you all are enjoying the course, because it's awesome.

Q.  The risk/reward factor ‑‑

ELLEN PORT:  I don't see this as a risk/reward course as much.  The par 5s are not set up ‑‑ what do you think?

ALLY McDONALD:  I think most of the time if you get overly aggressive with approach shots, you can be in more trouble than being less aggressive.  Because if you get above some of these pins, you're looking at just trying to 2‑putt, and sometimes you're not even going to walk away with a 2‑putt.

So it's a lot of placement I feel on the golf course.  So it's all about figuring out where is the best place for your ball to be and what's going to be give you the best opportunity to win the hole and make a birdie.

Q.  Talk about your caddies.

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  The caddies are pretty awesome.  They are really excited.  You can tell they know the golf courses really well.  My caddie in particular, I'll tell you I'm not one to let anyone help me read the greens because I just don't trust it, especially if I'm just meeting you.

But he's got the greens down and we always see the same thing and it's nice to have that reassurance with somebody who reads the greens like you do and it's nice to actually build a level of understanding and trust with your caddie.

He picked up on my distances very quickly, so we can also deliberate about approach shots and he can tell which clubs I spin, which ones I don't already just in these last couple of days, and so they are on top of it and they did a great job of it in caddie selections.

Q.  He's from St. Louis?

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  I think he caddies here over the summer, yes.

ALLY McDONALD:  Same.  I'm not really a person to want a lot of outer influence on the greens, but it really helps when someone knows the greens.  These greens can be very tricky to read.

So it helps to have some other knowledge, and like you said, my caddie has really picked up on a lot of things that I've done and he's really helped me, and some of the holes that may not look that much uphill, James really says, you just have to trust it, it's that much.

So we've had a lot of fun getting to know each other and he's got to know my game, as well.

Q.  What is the most important thing that you've taken away from Ellen, and Ellen, what are you trying to impart to the youngsters?

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  There's so much that you can take away ‑‑

ELLEN PORT:  You want me to leave?  (Laughter) I'll step out.

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  There's too many things.  I'm going to tell you an impressive story and I'm going to talk about last night.  At the dinner when Captain didn't even know that she was going to speak‑speak at our dinner last night.  So she got up there and she delivered a speech and it was awesome.

I think that's one of the things that you learn from Captain is you've got to take what's given to you.  You've got to go with it and you've got to execute, and what she did last night, you know, that's just another thing that she's talked to us about doing on the golf course.  She does it everywhere.  Doesn't matter where she is.  She takes the line that she's given and she goes with it.  I think that's a good thing.

ALLY McDONALD:  I just think she's really, really passionate.  You can tell she's so passionate about the game, so experienced, great player.  She's had a great amateur career, and there's just so many things that I can take away from the golf course and off the golf course, as well and I'm just very blessed to have her as a captain this weekend.

ELLEN PORT:  And I'll have to correct.  I knew I was supposed to speak but my marching orders was brief, because I was the end, and I don't like to get outdone.  And when my other captain gave the most marvelous speech I ever saw, I said, I'm in big trouble.  I'm 5‑down already and I haven't seen started (laughing).

Q.  What do you hope to impart to these kids?

ELLEN PORT:  You know what, there's ‑‑ I told them in ‑‑ I don't know if you guys remember this, but I told them in the locker room after our spring practice session, but the pressure is off when I found out what these guys were and they didn't really need me as a captain.  I felt like I will could say, I'm going to run out to Starbucks, put the lineup together and take care of each other.

What I've seen in these guys, and they don't really need ‑‑ I was laughing when you talked about your caddies; all my players are like that.  They are so humble and not an arrogant, I‑don't‑need‑your‑help.  It just the way they go about their business.

I hope they take a little bit from me but I feel like I need to be myself and I'm just so glad I can be myself and whatever they want to glean from a crazy 53‑year‑old lady, they can glean.  But I really mean that sincerely that this group, I've seen them take care of each other and take people who are struggling in their game and pull them up and lift them up.

I was so nervous about telling someone that I have eight impact players on my team.  I don't have anybody that I need to sit out, and I have anguished over ‑‑ I look at these pairings and I'm like, I don't want to set her out but I don't want to put her out, either.

It's just so nice to know that I have eight players that no matter what happens and whatever decisions I make, we talked a lot in our first team meeting about resting and knowing that we have got each other's back and trusting the decisions I make and I trust that they will be open with me.

So it's been awesome.  I know I'm rambling on that but they don't need me.  They don't need to glean anything.

Q.  You have a very high‑profile mentor.  Can you talk about how that relationship came about?

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  Well, I first met Dr. Rice on my very first visit out to Stanford.  The coach at the time setup a meeting with her and I remember meeting with her and her being so encouraging and enthusiastic about the possibility of my coming and playing golf for Stanford.  I'm thinking, you know, if Dr. Rice wants me to come here, I think I've got to go (laughter).

Just getting here, and she definitely has a very close bond with our team, and I'm thankful that she's taken an interest in me as a golfer, and more importantly, as a person.

I'll tell you the first thing she'll ask me before she asks how golf is going, she'll ask, "How's school?"  She takes interest in who I am as a person.

At the end of the school year last year, she invited me into her office and just wanted to talk about how my year had gone, how I was enjoying Stanford and my plans for the future.  I think it was more of, you know, are you going to stay here and I said, yes, I'm here all four years.

But just having her around has been invaluable.  Like I remember when I made the team, she sent me an e‑mail congratulating me, and shortly after I saw her at a banquet that we had for golf, and I think she got pumped up all over again.

I said, you know what, my schedule is busy with it being graduation time at school, but I definitely think I'm going to do my best to find some time to get out here and you could tell that she was really excited for me and for the team.

She's just amazing.  Like we have this dinner with her and she'll ask questions and each of us gets prepared to come with a question that she'll answer for us and it's basically a free‑for‑all, anything that you want to pick from Dr. Rice's mind, she'll answer it.  And just being available to the team and to me at any time, it just means the world to me, and just a great person to have in my corner.  And she's so accomplished.

One of the things that I admire about her is that she's accomplished but she's so personable, and she goes out of her way to make you feel welcome.  So just having her around and just to see, how, she's accomplished so much and she encourages me to do the same.

She says, if you have something you want to do, don't let anybody tell you know.  If you have this passion or this idea, you go for it, because you can accomplish anything.  And so that's awesome.  I take her messages with me and I keep those thoughts and ideas that she's giving me and she's been awesome.

Q.  Have you ever played golf with her?

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  I haven't.  I think we are going to play sometime very soon, probably next school year.  She's gone so much, and she's gone a lot of the times I'm at school but we are definitely going to play.

ELLEN PORT:  I think they are going to call me out, fly me out.  She'll send a plane for me (laughter).

Q.  Curious when each of you set the Curtis Cup as a goal to play.

ALLY McDONALD:  Personally, it wasn't really ‑‑ I honestly didn't think it was something that was attainable until probably two years ago.  And my game has just gotten so much better.

I definitely was not a player that was a well known junior golfer.  I didn't struggle but I wasn't as good as I am now.  Of course, as golfers, we all push to be even better, and I think I can be even better.  But I guess, yeah, two years ago, it was something that was in the back of my mind and it was something that I was going to work for.  You know, I'm so blessed to be here.

MARIAH STACKHOUSE:  For me, I definitely think it first kind of came onto my radar after I played the Junior Solheim, and everybody said the next step is the Curtis Cup.  And so that's when it first kind of really became important.  I knew what it was and I knew the tradition, but I feel like there are steps you take.  After playing Junior Solheim, well, what's the next level.

And so that's when it really became something that I was aware of.  I definitely say from the very first college tournament I played freshman year, I knew that every single tournament I played from that point on was going to be a factor, and I needed to play to the best of my ability and that was my goal, because you never know what's going to happen in golf.

But I said, I have two opportunities to make this team after sophomore year, after senior year.  So I said, let's get it quickly.  Better early than late.  And so that's definitely when I started to focus on it and it was a big goal of mine.

ELLEN PORT:  For me being on my first Curtis Cup?  I started late playing golf.  I didn't know anything about anything.  I didn't know I even had to sign up for a tournament.  Terry Hauser, a local pro and my first golf instructor, like a father to me, we were walking down Riverside Golf Course on one of those holes and he said ‑‑ I had done okay in a few tournaments and saw some natural athleticism.  And got in my corner and said:  "You could make the Curtis Cup team."

I said, "Well, what's the Curtis Cup team?"  You couldn't Google back then.  I don't know how I found out.  But whenever anybody said ‑‑ you know, somebody told me once, you could be really good at golf if you worked at it.  I'm like, okay, let's work at it.  You could make a Curtis Cup; okay, let's go for it.

So I thank Terry Hauser, and just learning about golf, and a lot like these girls, we are driven by goals and pushing ourselves.  And if that was going top the pinnacle, why not, let's be the best we can be and see where it takes us.

Q.  How old were you?

ELLEN PORT:  '94 was my first, I started playing golf when I was 25.  So it was about 1990.  I think I was at Pinehurst, my first U.S. Am was Pinehurst and I had been playing golf for two years and I didn't even know how to come out of a bunker.

I was like, what do I do, I had never hit off bentgrass and trying to lift it up.  I love thinking back to how I first started.  I was about 24 when I started and then played the Curtis Cup a few years later, so in about five or six years later, just each year just got a little better.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, ladies.  Good luck and have fun.

 

 

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