Ellen Port won the first three holes in the final match, a lead she never relinquished, in becoming the eighth player to win consecutive USGA Senior Women’s Amateur championships. But it was her prowess in scrambling for par that may have won this year’s title at CordeValle.
"Ellen is an amazing player," said Susan Cohn, who advanced to the final in her first Senior Women’s Amateur appearance. "I expect her to make par or birdie. Somehow in my brain she is just going to make a par or better. And she does."
Cohn sprayed some shots in the early part of the final but then settled in to make back-to-back pars at holes 4 and 5. Port sent her tee shot into the left fairway bunker at the 496-yard, par-5 sixth hole and was later faced with a chip from behind the green for her fourth shot. After coming up short, she made par with a 10-foot downhill putt to halve the hole.
"The grass grabbed it," Port said. "I was just barely trying to get it on, and I didn’t get it on far enough, and that was a key putt."
Port found trouble off the tee again at the 346-yard, par-4 ninth when her ball landed right of the cart path, behind a tree. Cohn placed her drive into the middle of the fairway and an opportunity existed. However, Port was able to get her approach over the tree, with her ball finding the front right greenside bunker. She executed a terrific shot out of the sand to 3 feet to save par.
"I went ahead with a 3-wood [off the tee] and fanned it out there," said Port. "Luckily I had the confidence that I could hit that up over the tree. I got it in the bunker and I hit a nice bunker shot."
Cohn was still 3 down after the 10th hole, but saw another opening when Port drove her ball into the right fairway bunker on No. 11 and had to lay up out of the sand.
"I’d been hitting it really well, and I guess I didn’t hit it as well as I thought and there was more wind," said Port.
But Port, who won last year’s Senior Women’s Amateur at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, found another way to make an up-and-down par by hitting her third shot with a 6-iron to within 3½ feet.
"I just said, I’ve got to stick this," she said. "And [caddie] Carlos [Cortez] gave me great numbers all week. I was 135 yards away into a two-club wind and just knocked it down right at the flag. The best part of my game this week was my crisp iron play."
Cohn added, "That wind had to be blowing 20 miles per hour. I couldn’t even reach the green; I had to go to the left side."
Salvaging par on those three holes may have been the key to Port again holding the Senior Women’s Amateur Championship Trophy.
Port’s Win Advances History
Port, who has also claimed four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur crowns, now owns six USGA championships. She is tied for fourth, with Hollis Stacy and Glenna Collett Vare, for most USGA women’s championships won.
Port trails only JoAnne Gunderson Carner, who won eight, and Anne Quast Sander and Carol Semple Thompson, who each have seven victories.
"I am a competitor at heart," said Port, who plays a limited schedule due to family and teaching commitments. "I love the thrill of hitting shots when they matter. And I love the spirit of amateurism."
Port will serve as the 2014 USA Curtis Cup Captain in her hometown when the match is played with Great Britain and Ireland at St. Louis Country Club on June 6-8.
Cohn’s First Senior Women’s Amateur
Cohn, 50, had a memorable return to USGA championship play by finishing as the runner-up. She had not played in a USGA event in 21 years.
"I love to play," said Cohn, whose previous USGA appearances came at the 1989 U.S. Women Amateur and 1992 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. "Sometimes life gets in the way. I would love to play more."
After a rough start that included three consecutive double bogeys to trail 3 down, Cohn played solid golf through the completion of the match with 11 pars, one birdie and one bogey.
"You are not going to hit every shot perfectly and they [your opponents] are not going to hit every shot perfectly," said Cohn, who won her sectional qualifier at Frenchman’s Reserve Country Club, where she works in the golf shop.
Cohn will not have to qualify for next year’s championship, having earned an exemption with her runner-up finish.
Looking Ahead to 2016
CordeValle’s first USGA championship is over, but the Northern California golf resort’s work is far from complete with the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open on the horizon.
"We have learned from this experience and believe we have what it takes to deliver a superb championship in 2016," said Carol Kaufman, general chairman for this year’s USGA Senior Women’s Amateur.
Kaufman, who serves as executive vice president for The Cooper Companies, a global medical device company with 8,000 employees in 100 countries, personally sought feedback from the players this week and was impressed with the efforts of the USGA team.
"They [staff and committee] make it possible to have excellent events from my perspective," said Kaufman, who was involved with the 1998 and 2012 U.S. Opens at The Olympic Club. "It gives you a comfort level looking forward to 2016."
Lew Ellen Erickson, the chairman of the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur, thinks the Women’s Open field will embrace the golf course.
"These (Senior Women’s Amateur) players have loved it and those players are going to love it even more," said Erickson, who has served as this championship’s chair since 2010. "What’s great about this golf course is that you can lengthen it out or shorten it up. It sets up beautifully for many different conditions. It’s so versatile and it’s the right challenge."
When Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen arrive in California’s Santa Clara County, the USGA’s Teresa Belmont expects everything to set up well for the Women’s Open.
"The players will love it here from a golf course standpoint and from a hospitality and customer service standpoint," said Belmont, director of the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur. "They know how to take care of people here."
There are many details to be arranged at CordeValle for 2016, but as Erickson noted, one thing is a constant. "Every place you walk on this golf course you have an amazing view and all the nature."
Ellen Port is the first player since Diane Lang in 2006 to win consecutive USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championships … Port has won three of her six USGA championships in California … She also won the 1996 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Mission Hills Country Club (Dinah Shore Course), in Rancho Mirage, and the 2000 Women’s Mid-Amateur at Big Canyon Country Club, in Newport Beach … Mary Jane Hiestand and Caryn Wilson, who each reached the semifinals here, are in the field for the upcoming U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, scheduled Oct. 5-10 at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, N.C.
Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.