Burke, Medalist Port Forge Ahead September 27, 2010 By Ken Klavon

Brooke Williams, on No. 12 Tuesday, won her second-round match. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)

Wichita, Kan. – Three-time USGA champion Ellen Port calls Robin Burke the best player to never win the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship. In a case of irony, Burke will need to get past Port in Tuesday’s third round of match play at Wichita Country Club if she is to win her first title.

That’s because Port, the 49-year-old medalist from St. Louis, and the 48-year-old Burke, of Houston, both won their second-round matches on the 6,209-yard, par-72 Wichita Country Club layout. Port eliminated Tara Joy-Connelly, 37, of Pembroke, Mass., 2 and 1, and Burke got by 50-year-old Mina Hardin, of Fort Worth, Texas, 3 and 2, on another gorgeous day.

Port broke a deadlock in dramatic fashion by holing out a 184-yard approach shot for eagle on the 414-yard par-4 14th hole. Port, a physical education teacher and boys golf/girls field hockey coach at John Burroughs High School in St. Louis, promptly handed her club to her caddie and did a cartwheel.

After carding an eagle in the 2006 championship at Old Waverly Golf Club, she promised daughter Katie, now 11 years old, that she’d do a cartwheel if she eagled any holes.

The eagle turned out to be a momentum-changer as Port won the next hole with a par to go 2 up. She lost the 15th hole after three-putting from 12 feet. But she bounced back to win the 16th hole to get back to 2 up. After raving about Joy-Connelly’s play, Port’s attention quickly turned to Burke.

I’m playing the best player to never win the Women’s Mid-Amateur, said Port. I have my hands full.

Coming into Tuesday, Burke had said the same of Hardin, who is a longtime participant in the championship and a reinstated amateur. In fact, Hardin had gotten the best of Burke in both of their previous meetings in this championship.

Back-to-back birdies on the eighth and ninth holes allowed Burke to increase her lead to 4 up at the turn.

She putted like a demon on the front, said Hardin, who said she’s looking forward to focusing on her first USGA Senior Women’s Amateur next month in Florida.

On the 445-yard par-5 10th, Hardin had an opportunity to shave a hole off her deficit but pushed a 6-foot birdie putt and the two halved.

After winning the 12th hole, Hardin had another victory on No. 13 when she sank a 30-foot putt to save par, dropping her club and raising her arms in apparent disbelief. That’s as close as she would get to Burke, though.

Burke applied pressure on the dogleg-left 15th hole after Hardin tried unsuccessfully to cut the corner off the tee, catching the trees. In the meantime, Burke took a conservative approach and eventually won the hole with a 6-foot birdie putt.

Burke was certainly aware she had a tough draw in the battle-tested Hardin, but said it didn’t matter.

You know what, every match you win you’re going to face a good player, said Burke, medalist in 2003.

That’s the tack two-time runner-up 47-year-old Kerry Postillion of Scottsdale, Ariz., was taking after eliminating Tanya Olson, 35, of Naperville, Ill., 6 and 5.

Postillion started her round unnerved after learning of a gunman on the University of Texas campus Tuesday morning. Her daughter, Samantha Postillion, is a player on the women’s golf team. She learned on  the third hole that her daughter was safe practicing off-site.

My mind was a little off out there today, said Postillion.

In other second-round matches, 29-year-old Jennifer Lucas of Knoxville, Tenn., defeated Wendi Golden, 35, of Bradenton, Fla., 2 and 1; 2004 champion Corey Weworski of Carlsbad, Calif., beat Linda Jeffer, 37, of Millbrook, Ala., 4 and 2; and Sydney Wells, 49, of Menominee, Mich., ousted 2003 champion Amber Marsh Elliott, 41, of Greensboro, N.C., 3 and 1.

The third round will also be played Tuesday, followed by the quarterfinals and semifinals Wednesday. The 18-hole final is scheduled for Thursday.

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

Story written by Ken Klavon, web editor for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or comments at kklavon@usga.org.