Without the slightest hint of braggadocio, Ellen Port says she enjoys every chance she gets to be the top seed heading into a match-play golf tournament.
It's a good thing. Because in the 24-year history of the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur, nobody has done it more than Port, a 48-year-old school teacher and coach from St. Louis.
Port fired her second consecutive 1-over-par 73 Sunday at Wichita Country Club to earn medalist honors in the stroke-play portion of the U.S. Golf Association championship for women 25 and older. Port's 146 total led the field of 130 competitors, edging Oklahoma City's Katy Treadwell and Floridian Meghan Stasi by one stroke.
Port, a three-time Women's Mid-Am champion, and 63 others will try to navigate through four days of match play beginning today at WCC. And Port will tee it up as a No. 1 seed for a Women's Mid-Am record fourth time, taking sole possession of a record she previously shared with World Golf Hall of Fame member Carol Semple Thompson.
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"I've never believed in the medalist not wanting to be medalist," said Port, who won Women's Mid-Am titles in 1995, 1996 and 2000, the last as a top seed. "A lot of people say they don't want to be medalist.
"I feel like we have a great field, and if I can shoot one of the lower numbers, my confidence just soars."
The match-play portion of the championship won't include defending champion Martha Leach. The Hebron, Ky., resident fell one stroke shy of joining nine golfers who shot 18-over 162 to get into a playoff for the final six spots.
Wichita's Becky Thomas, playing in her first USGA championship, also missed the cut. The former WSU golfer followed her opening-round 83 with an 82 and was three strokes away from the playoff.
Meanwhile, Port, who didn't start playing golf until she was in her 20s, added to her lengthy list of amateur accomplishments. Playing in cool, overcast conditions with a wind shift from the previous day, the two-time U.S. Curtis Cup representative made three birdies and four bogeys on the 6,209-yard layout for the second consecutive day.
"My challenge these two days was to play with the mindset of playing great and not just pull back on the throttle," Port said. "I did that every shot and I think it helped me."
Alexandra Casi, the lone competitor to shoot even par in Saturday's opening round, surrendered her lead with an 84 on Sunday. But the former Youngstown State track athlete from East Palestine, Ohio, comfortably remained above the cut line and advanced to match play.
Including Port, six past Women's Mid-Am champions will return to Wichita Country Club today, although not all are guaranteed a spot in match play. The playoff for the final berths was suspended by darkness after one hole, with six remaining for the final five positions. That group includes 2008 champion Joan Higgins and 2003 winner Amber Marsh Elliott. Those golfers will resume the playoff at 8 a.m.
Port, whose 48 match victories are second only to Semple Thompson's 56 in championship history, and Stasi (2006 and 2007) are the lone winners of multiple Women's Mid-Ams still in the field.
"I play zoysia fairways in St. Louis, and I just feel like this is a good old Midwestern course."