DEAL, N.J. – A three-peat at the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship didn’t happen for Ellen Port this week. Port lost, 3 and 2, to Martha Leach in Tuesday morning’s Round of 32 at Hollywood Golf Club.
Port never led and never challenged against the player she last faced in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur final. Port, 52, of St. Louis., won that match, 2 and 1, to claim her fourth title in that championship, but today, Leach charged ahead early and never looked back.
You have to hit the golf shots, said Port. I’m capable of hitting them, but I just didn’t execute today, and when you get down early, it’s hard to come back against a good player.
Port said she played sluggish golf today and noted that her problems started on the first hole, where she was 5 yards off the green and three-putted for a double bogey. She blew a putt 8 feet by the hole and didn’t make the comeback putt.
On the second hole, even though Leach hit her tee shot into the trees right of the fairway, Port said the difference was her opponent scrambled with a 10-foot putt to save par. The hole was halved, but Leach demonstrated a knack for getting out of trouble early in the match that would serve her well down the stretch.
Martha recovered better than I did and her short game was better all day, said Port, the stroke-play medalist. I hardly got up and down when I missed a green and that’s the difference. You have to get up and down for par.
Leach extended that lead and warmed up her putter on a rainy, soggy morning when she sunk a 40-foot birdie putt on the third hole to take a 2-up lead.
"I worked really hard today and I'm just really proud of the way I pulled through," said Leach, 52, of Hebron, Ky., who never trailed. "I hit some good shots, made some good putts. I'm happy to have won [because] she's a great champion."
Leach, who claims she is normally a chatty Cathy out there, knew she was in for a potentially difficult match against a proven champion before she ever put a tee in the ground this morning. She and Port, after all, were the only players in the field who competed in August’s U.S. Women’s Amateur.
"I knew I had to be a little bit to myself, more selfish," admitted Leach, who is now 2-2 in USGA match play against Port.
Port fought back, winning the fifth hole with a 20-foot putt. She also won the eighth hole when Leach struggled in a bunker.
But Port wrestled with her wedges throughout the round. On one hole, she hit a thin pitching wedge over a green from 100 yards. When her ball landed in a deep swale adjacent to the 12th green, her chip came up short and she conceded the hole.
On No. 14, the six-time USGA champion tried to hit her third shot out of a water hazard only to watch it roll back in. Meanwhile, Leach safely chipped to within 8 feet. Port conceded the hole.
I didn’t like the way I hit my short shots around the greens, added Port. I was really inconsistent today and Martha was steady.
Both players matched pars on No. 15, but Leach carried a 2-up lead as they played the 16th hole. Leach’s approach shot landed just short of the green. Port’s approach sailed into a left bunker. Her bunker shot landed in hole-high rough. Port’s final concession gave Leach the hole and the match.
That’s golf and there are never any guarantees, whether you are the medalist or last year’s winner, said Port. Mentally, I did not have it today. I made some mistakes that cost me and I didn’t recover as well as she did. Martha’s a great player and she just outplayed me.
Sister of World Golf Hall of Fame member Hollis Stacy, Leach advanced into the Round of 16 Tuesday afternoon, where she will face Susan West of Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Winner of the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, Leach hopes to improve on her Senior Women’s Am record, having also advanced into the Round of 16 in the 2013 championship. She is competing in her 56th USGA championship this week.
Another USGA championship in Leach’s family would fit well with her sister’s six, which includes three U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships and U.S. Women’s Open wins in 1977, 1978 and 1984.
Frohnmayer Rolls Into Round Of 16
A day after defeating four-time U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur winner and seven-time USGA champion Carol Semple Thompson, 6 and 4, in the Round of 64, Terri Frohnmayer ousted No. 2 seed Caryn Wilson, 2 and 1, in the Round of 32.
Frohnmayer, 58, of Salem, Ore., won the second hole to move 1 up and never trailed. The 2011 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion moved one step closer to a second title by dominating on the greens, saving many a par in a birdie-free round.
"I adore match play," said Frohnmayer. "I made a few putts. Sometimes, I can be a gorilla on the green. My comeback putts were really good all day. Anything from 6 to 8 feet, I was putting them in."
Odds And Ends
Kareen Markle, 52, of Meridian, Ohio, won her match when Rachel Moreaux, 52, of San Rafael, Calif., conceded after 12 holes due to a wrist injury. … Two Round-of-32 matches went to extra holes. Louella Kanew, 52, of South Africa, defeated Lisa Schlesinger, 56, of Laytonsville, Md., in 19 holes. In the following match, Andrea Kraus, 53, of Baltimore, Md., rallied from 3 down with five holes to play, to edge Laura Coble, 50, of Augusta, Ga., in 19 holes.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.