Ellen Port added her name to the Mildred Prunaret Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship Trophy for a record fourth time with her 2-and-1 victory over fellow past champion Martha Leach at the 25th Women’s Mid-Amateur conducted at Bayville Golf Club.
Port, a high school golf coach and physical education teacher from St. Louis, Mo., previously captured the championship for women age 25 and older in 1995, 1996 and 2000. The 11-year span since her last victory broke the championship record of seven years held by Carol Semple Thompson, who won in 1990 and 1997.
"It's just a culmination of a lot of hard work and still having a life outside of golf and still wondering if you could still win," said Port, a mother of two who celebrated her 50th birthday on Wednesday. "It's been a really special week."
Port never trailed in the match, which was halted for 38 minutes due to a thunderstorm with the players on the 12th green. She only fell behind once in her six championship matches.
"I just really had a peace about everything this week," said Port, who advanced to the final with a 3-and-2 victory over Helene Beat in Thursday morning’s semifinal round. "I was very calm and very at peace with myself, and I think that made a big difference in my golf game."
Leach, 49, of Hebron, Ky., carded consecutive bogeys to open the match and give Port an early 2-up advantage. After halving the third with birdies, Port hooked her second shot on the par-5 fourth hole into a fairway bunker. She then missed the green and could not get up and down. The bogey knocked one hole off her lead.
"I don't think my legs were tired," said Port. "I just sometimes get anxious, and I just hooked a 4-(hybrid) and didn't do very well on that. "
Port’s struggles continued, as an unplayable lie from an area of native grasses on the par-5 sixth led to a bogey. Leach took the hole with a par and squared the match.
But from there, the afternoon belonged to Port. Leach’s bogey at the par-4 seventh handed the lead back to Port, one that she never surrendered. Her lead stretched to 2 up at the par-4 10th, when Leach uncharacteristically stroked her 5-foot par putt just right of the hole.
"She missed more putts than she normally does," said Port of her good friend. "She's a really good putter."
"I had been hitting it really well (this week)," said Leach, the 2009 champion. "Today, I woke up and I just couldn’t get anything going."
Following the brief rain delay, Port tacked another hole onto her lead when Leach’s 30-foot par attempt at the par-4 12th stopped 3 feet short.
"That had been a really good hole for me most of the days," said Port, who won the hole by converting her 10-foot par putt after finding a fairway bunker off the tee. "It moved just a little bit, and I played conservative and got away with it."
Leach chipped away at Port’s lead with a 4-foot par save at the par-3 13th after Port missed her 7 footer. But Port’s lead was too much to overcome, and halves over the next four holes gave her the victory.
Leach struggled to find her game all day. With the championship schedule altered due to an extended rain delay during stroke play, the semifinal and final rounds were played on the same day rather than on separate days. Leach had to survive a 19-hole comeback win over Tara Joy-Connelly on Thursday morning before heading to the championship final.
"My first match today took it all out of me," said Leach, the sister of six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy. "When you don’t hit it solid and you’re not making putts, you’re working so hard to get something going.
"It just wasn’t my time to win, so I’m OK with that."
Port and Leach have long Women’s Mid-Amateur histories, playing in their 22nd and 23rd championships, respectively. For Port, the opportunity to share today’s experience with her good friend was more valuable than any championship trophy.
"I almost started crying walking down the fairway because I was watching John (Leach, Martha’s husband and caddie) and Martha," said Port. "I love playing with Martha. I'm really glad we played because I would have sincerely been happy if she'd have won as well.
"That's golf at its finest, being able to have two friends (competing in the final). And I know she's disappointed in the way she played, but she's a champion."
With her victory, Port received a 10-year exemption into the Women’s Mid-Amateur. She also received two-year exemptions into the Women’s Amateur, Senior Women’s Amateur and Women’s Amateur Public Links (if eligible).
Leach received a three-year Women’s Mid-Amateur exemption and one-year exemptions into the other three championships.
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 email@example.com.
Virginia Beach, Va. – Results from Thursday’s semifinal and final rounds of match play at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at the par-72, 6,187-yard Bayville Golf Club:
Ellen Port, St. Louis, Mo. (161) def. Helene Beat, Sylvania, Ohio (156), 4 and 3
Martha Leach, Hebron, Ky. (152) def. Tara Joy-Connelly, Pembroke, Mass. (148), 19 holes
Ellen Port, St. Louis, Mo. (161) def. Martha Leach, Hebron, Ky. (152), 2 and 1