Ellen Port: Knocking on Golf History’s Door

Ellen Port celebrates her third U.S. Senior Women's Amateur win (Photo courtesy of the USGA)

Think about the magnitude of her achievement: Career amateur Ellen Port has captured seven U.S. Golf Association championships. The only other golfers in history to win seven or more USGA championships are Carol Semple Thompson (7), Anne Sander (7), JoAnne Gunderson Carner (8), Jack Nicklaus (8), Bobby Jones (9) and Tiger Woods (9).

On Sept. 22, Port claimed her third U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur title, defeating Andrea Kraus 3 and 2 in the 18-hole final at Wellesley (Mass.) Country Club. Port, 56, lives in St. Louis. Kraus, 55, is from Baltimore.

Combined with four triumphs in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, Port now has seven total USGA championships. In match play, she has been a juggernaut, reaching eight finals and winning seven of them.

This victory was vintage Port.

“I have learned a weird way of never thinking I will win or lose,” she explained. “I never felt I had this tournament won. Until my putt went in on the 16th green, I didn’t think, ‘This is for the win.’

“There have been a couple of times, in other tournaments, when I knew. I had a little bit of that this time, but I had to push it away.”

The only time Port had played Kraus previously was in the 1995 Women’s Mid-Amateur, when Port won her first USGA championship, at Essex Country Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.

Port has contributed much more to golf than winning national championships. She taught physical education for 30 years at the John Burroughs School, a college prep school (grades 7-12) in St. Louis, winning state high school championships in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions.

Currently she is the head women’s golf coach at Washington University in St. Louis. She also was the victorious U.S. captain in the 2014 Curtis Cup, played at St. Louis Country Club.

Heading into the 2016 Senior Women’s Amateur, Port hadn’t competed in a tournament since early July. She had played only a few casual rounds of golf, mostly with her husband, Andy. Yet her preparation style did not affect her attitude as the championship approached.

“I was as committed to winning as ever,” she said, “and my game was as good as ever. I had confidence because I had done it before.

“But it’s grueling. Doubt comes in. I have a realistic view because I know how good my competitors are. My goal was to stay fresh and not get overwhelmed, to stay emotionally calm all week.”

The final match saw the lead alternate several times. Kraus was 1 up after nine holes, although Port won the 10th, 14th and 16th to conclude her victory.

This was Port’s first visit to Wellesley Country Club, with a history of design by Donald Ross, Wayne Stiles and Geoffrey Cornish. She found it beautiful, from the renovated clubhouse to the finely-conditioned golf course.

“I loved it from the minute I stepped on the property,” said Port. “Every hole on the golf course was different. It was fair and kept me interested.”

For her victory, Port received a gold medal and custody of the Senior Women’s Amateur trophy for one year. In addition, she received a 10-year exemption to the Senior Women’s Amateur, as well as exemptions into the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championships.

Kraus received a silver medal and a three-year Senior Women’s Amateur exemption, as well as an exemption into next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.

Port was philosophical as she reflected on her women’s golf team at Washington University.

“These kids are like me,” she said, “even with their high-powered academics. They juggle a lot of things, and they love golf. Their passion for the game parallels what I’ve done. They are true amateurs.”

—Sally J. Sportsman, Senior Golf Insider