U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
Port/Beat, Leach/Joy-Connelly competing for championship-match berths September 20, 2011 By Christina Lance, USGA

Martha Leach, the 2009 Women's Mid-Amateur champion, eliminated 1997 Women's Amateur runner-up Robin Burke to take a spot in Thursday's semifinals. (Chris Keane/USGA)

Virginia Beach, Va. – Three-time champion Ellen Port celebrated her 50th birthday with two convincing victories at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at 6,187-yard, par-72 Bayville Golf Club.

The St. Louis native’s commanding 7-and-5 quarterfinal victory over medalist Brenda Pictor secured her first Women’s Mid-Amateur semifinal berth since 2007.

Port’s birdie on the par-4, 371-yard first hole immediately set the tone of the match. Pictor was seemingly never able to find her groove, with bogeys at the third and fourth holes adding to Port’s lead.

I got ahead early and that really helps in a match like this, because she’s too good of a player, said Port, the winner in 1995, 1996 and 2000. I didn’t make a lot of mistakes, so it was hard for her to get back in it.

Port’s long birdie putt on the par-4 eighth stretched her lead to 4 up. Pictor’s birdie on the par-4 ninth cut one hole off her deficit, but also jolted Port to the realization that the match was far from over.

I just thought, OK, 3 up against her is not a big enough margin for me, said Port, a boys' varsity golf coach at John Burroughs School in St. Louis who only plays in a handful of competitions per year. She won four consecutive holes to dispatch Pictor, with her birdie on the par-3 13th closing out the match.

Port is now only two rounds away from adding her name to the Mildred Prunaret Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship Trophy for a record fourth time. But don’t count on that fact entering Port’s mind.

If it does, I won’t get (the victory), said Port, who defeated Mina Hardin, 3 and 2, Wednesday morning to advance to the quarterfinals. I still know I have a game good enough to win it. I’m still long enough, and I still love it.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m doing things better in my golf game now than I did when I won.

Should Port win, the 11-year span between victories would break the record of seven years held by renowned career amateur Carol Semple Thompson, who won in 1990 and 1997. A win would also move Port into a tie for the most Women’s Mid-Amateur match-play victories with 56, also with Semple Thompson.

Port will face first-time USGA competitor Helene Beat in Thursday morning’s semifinal round. Beat, a 29-year-old reinstated amateur from Sylvania, Ohio, fought through a back-and-forth battle with Sri Lanka’s Thuhashini Selvaratnam for a 1-up victory.

Beat and Selvaratnam only halved five of 18 holes, and no lead lasted more than two holes. Beat won the final two holes to take the match, but despite the victory, a teary Beat was very frustrated with the state of her game, having played what she called not-clean golf.

Hopefully I can come back with a more rhythmic swing tomorrow, because it was awful, said Beat, a financial advisor and former teaching professional at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. I think I hit maybe two good shots the entire day.

Thursday’s second semifinal match will include another past Women’s Mid-Amateur champion. Martha Leach, 49, of Hebron, Ky., the 2009 winner, will meet 38-year-old Tara Joy-Connelly, of Pembroke, Mass. for the second championship-final berth.

Leach, the sister of six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy, continued her steady march through the match-play bracket. Her 3-and-2 victory over 1997 Women’s Amateur runner-up Robin Burke was her longest match of the championship, having taken all of her earlier victories no later than the 15th hole.

I knew my match with Robin was going to be a close one, said Leach, who never trailed. Since we’ve played so much against each other, I know her game, her strengths. I knew I was going to have to go a little bit longer.

Joy-Connelly faced a stalwart quarterfinal opponent in 1998 Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Virginia Grimes. She was able to build a 3-up lead with consecutive birdies at the par-4 12th and par-3 13th.

But Joy-Connelly’s bogey at the par-4 14th shifted the momentum to Grimes, who came back with a birdie at the 16th to pull within one hole with two to play.

I was a couple up and she was chipping away at it, said Joy-Connelly, who was named the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts’ Player of the Decade for 2000-09. She has so much experience and she’s such a great player that I just had to keep working.

A difficult hole location at the 18th green gave both players trouble, and a hole halved with bogeys ultimately handed the win to Joy-Connelly.

That’s a tough pin back there on that crown, said Joy-Connelly. It kind of makes you not want to go for it, so then you leave yourself a tough putt.

Leach advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating 2012 USA Curtis Cup Team Captain Patricia Cornett, while Joy-Connelly eliminated Andrea Kraus in the third round.

The semifinals will be played Thursday morning, and the 18-hole championship match is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.

The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

Christina Lance is a coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email questions or comments to clance@usga.org.  

Results 

Virginia Beach, Va. – Results from Wednesday’s third and quarterfinal rounds of match play at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at the par-72, 6,187-yard Bayville Golf Club: 

Third Round 

Upper Bracket 

Brenda Pictor, Marietta, Ga. (146) def. Shawn Farmer, Bellevue, Wash. (162), 2 up
Ellen Port, St. Louis, Mo. (161) def. Mina Hardin, Fort Worth, Texas (164), 3 and 2
Helene Beat, Sylvania, Ohio (156) def. Sharon Park, Irvine, Calif. (159), 2 and 1
Thuhashini Selvaratnam, Sri Lanka (159) def. Laura Coble, Augusta, Ga. (154), 3 and 2

Lower Bracket 

Robin Burke, Houston, Texas (165) def. Kathy Kurata, Pasadena, Calif. (163), 19 holes
Martha Leach, Hebron, Ky. (152) def. Patricia Cornett, Mill Valley, Calif. (164), 5 and 4
Tara Joy-Connelly, Pembroke, Mass. (148) def. Andrea Kraus, Baltimore, Md. (162), 2 up
Virginia Grimes, Meridian, Miss. (149) def. Margaret Shirley, Roswell, Ga. (157), 2 up

Quarterfinal Round 

Upper Bracket 

Ellen Port, St. Louis, Mo. (161) def. Brenda Pictor, Marietta, Ga. (146), 7 and 5
Helene Beat, Sylvania, Ohio (156) def. Thuhashini Selvaratnam, Sri Lanka (159), 1 up

Lower Bracket 

Martha Leach, Hebron, Ky. (152) def. Robin Burke, Houston, Texas (165), 3 and 2
Tara Joy-Connelly, Pembroke, Mass. (148) def. Virginia Grimes, Meridian, Miss. (149), 1 up

Pairings 

Virginia Beach, Va. – Pairings for Thursday’s semifinal round of match play at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at the par-72, 6,187-yard Bayville Golf Club: 

Upper Bracket 

7:30 a.m.: Ellen Port, St. Louis, Mo. (161) vs. Helene Beat, Sylvania, Ohio (156)

Lower Bracket 

7:45 a.m.: Martha Leach, Hebron, Ky. (152) vs. Tara Joy-Connelly, Pembroke, Mass. (148)