U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S AMATEUR
U.S. Senior Women's Amateur, Round 1: Five Things to Know October 5, 2018 | Vero Beach, Fla. By Scott Lipsky, USGA

An abundance of water is one of Orchid Island's most prominent characteristics. (USGA/Russell Kirk)

U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Home

Fourteen world-class venues.

Eleven states.

38,643 entries.

On Saturday, the final USGA championship of 2018 begins at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club with 132 elite 50-and-over players teeing it up in the 57th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship. Awaiting the winner is inscription on the championship trophy and a two-year exemption in to the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship. The last player standing will need to endure through two rounds of stroke play and win six matches over four days.

The first part comes this weekend, as the competitors eye the 64 match-play spots following two days of stroke play. Here are five things to watch as things get started:

Will the Canadian Invasion Continue?

Last year’s Senior Women’s Amateur featured a final between eventual champion Judith Kyrinis and runner-up Terrill Samuel, the first championship match in USGA history between two competitors from Canada. Of the 16 international competitors in this year’s championship, 12 of them hail from our neighbor to the north. Will we see another deep run out of that group? If so, it shouldn’t surprise anybody. Senior Women’s Amateur competitors from Canada have made a habit of not just advancing to match play in recent years – since 2014, they have been successful in earning spots in the draw a combined 21 out of 29 times – but also making a splash while doing so. In each of the last three years, a different Canadian player has earned either medalist or co-medalist honors during stroke play. “Just happy to be here” clearly isn’t a term Canadians are familiar with.

Port’s Drive for Eight

One of the most anticipated storylines heading into the championship is how three-time Senior Women’s Amateur champion Ellen Port will fare at Orchid Island. Port, 57, of St. Louis, Mo., has also won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur four times, giving her a total of seven USGA championship titles during her decorated career. With a victory this week, she would match Jack Nicklaus and JoAnne Carner, and move within one USGA title of of matching Bob Jones and Tiger Woods for the most championships by an individual. The former golf coach at Washington University in St. Louis is now fully focused on her golf game, tying for 33rd in the Inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in July before becoming the second-oldest player to qualify for match play in U.S. Women’s Amateur history in early August. Just two weeks ago, she advanced to the Round of 32 in the Women’s Mid-Amateur in her hometown. The fiercely competitive Port is prepared for another run at a title.

“It's good to come right off of a tournament because a lot of amateurs, including myself, have long gaps before we play,” Port said after her run in the Women’s Mid-Amateur ended. “It was a reminder of how you need to play if you want to win.”

Bounceback for Leach?

While she hasn’t advanced past the Round of 16, Martha Leach, 56, of Hebron, Ky., has qualified for match play in each of her six Senior Women’s Amateur appearances, finishing in the top four in the stroke-play portion of the championship on three of those occasions. She’ll be hoping to catch some of those good vibes this weekend. After tying for 10th and earning low-amateur honors in the Senior Women’s Open, Leach missed the cut in both the Women’s Amateur and the Women’s Mid-Amateur, which she won in 2009. Leach has always been consistent in the early portion of the Senior Women’s Amateur, and if she wants a chance to make that elusive deep run in this championship, that trend will have to continue.

Another New Kid on the Block

Since opening in 1990, Orchid Island has hosted local and regional events, as well as U.S. Open local qualifying. But this week, it is hosting its first USGA championship. This is the fourth 2018 venue making its USGA championship debut, joining El Caballero Country Club (Women’s Amateur Four-Ball), Poppy Hills Golf Course (Girls’ Junior), and The Golf Club of Tennessee (Women’s Amateur). None of the 132 players have experienced Orchid Island in championship conditions, which could be a great equalizer.

Water, Water Everywhere

Scenic Orchid Island is one of the few barrier island courses in Florida, sitting on the Atlantic Coast just off the state’s mainland, lending itself to breathtaking views and eye-catching topography. The layout has also been recognized for its environmental efforts. What are the Senior Women’s Amateur competitors most likely to remember about the Arnold Palmer design? The fact that water comes into play on 17 of 18 holes. Orchid Island is expected to measure approximately 5,800 yards, and given the trouble that awaits stray shots throughout the course, it will be interesting to see how competitors prepare to attack the golf course.

“Obviously, one of the challenges at Orchid Island is negotiating the many hazards—water hazards, bunkers, beach bunkers, and spartina grasses,” said Tracy Parsons, championship director for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. “There are 55 acres of maintained water hazards, and players will have to do their homework to determine the best possible angles of approach.”

Scott Lipsky is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.