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September 13, 2012

Ellen Port


Q.¬† Ellen, you hold four USGA Women's Mid‑Amateur Championships.¬† How does that make you feel?
ELLEN PORT:  It's been so much fun this week.  It's been a very special week.  It's been hard work, but it's a dream come true.

Q.  Did you have high hopes?  You're one of the youngest players; you're a rookie.  Do you feel that would translate into a win?
ELLEN PORT:  I knew I was one of the favorites, I think if you asked anybody in the field, because of my playing record and my experience and my age, but that was where it ended.
The person that you think is going to win usually doesn't win, and if you think you're going to win you usually don't win, so I've been around long enough to try to pull the reigns in and let things unfold.

Q.  You won five holes in a row this afternoon.

Q.  Yeah.  You brought the match back all square at No. 11.  You went 1 up on 12, 2 up on 13, 3 up on 14 and your conceded birdie on 15.  You can't beat winning five in a row to close out a match.
ELLEN PORT:¬† I traded gifts on the front nine, and I was trying to not get impatient with myself because I made some mistakes.¬† But Jane, you know, when she missed a short putt and I 3‑putted 9, that was nice to be one down, and I did say, okay, I'm only one down, and I've got a lot of golf left.
And we both made nice putts on 10.  It was hard to get close, and 11 was good, because I had a chip, and I didn't think I hit it hard enough, and it rolled down, and Jane had a difficult shot.  The birdie on 12 was good.  We both drew in good shots there, and she wanted to play it higher, and she and Jim tried to figure it out, and then she missed it on the low side, and it was on my line, so I knew you had to hit, die it, and then it was going to come completely back into the hole, and it was the only putt that I hit well all week.  It was a great time to do it.

Q.¬† Your whole mojo changed after that putt.¬† Did you feel that?¬† I thought your body language changed and you got peppy‑‑

Q.  Yes.
ELLEN PORT:  Good, because I'm not watching that from the outside in.  I tried to stay level.
I was glad something like that happened.¬† I let it ride, I got the speed married.¬† I didn't have the speed and the read married very well this week for the big divers, but then when I got to 12, she got into trouble off the tee, and I got greedy and pulled it into the left rough, and it's hard ‑‑ I had a hard time on that hole getting the shot on that par 5‑‑

Q.  You mean 13?
ELLEN PORT:¬† Yeah, 13.¬† I hit a tree limb.¬† I was trying to get high enough, and I had to keep it low, and I smothered a 3H high, and then I left an 8‑iron out, and usually those chips are some of the things I do best, but the greens are fast and they spooked me.
When I made that putt‑‑ then it looked like we were going to have the hole and I was in the driver's seat, and we were both on the green putting for 5, and she hit a nice shot, and when I made that putt it was great.

Q.  How long do you think that putt was?
ELLEN PORT:  Probably 10 feet, 10 or 12 feet.

Q.  Now, you started out riding the cart, then about the 7th hole you requested a pull cart, and then I guess you changed to the pull cart at the turn?
ELLEN PORT:¬† Uh‑huh.

Q.¬† What was your reason?¬† Why did you start thinking‑‑
ELLEN PORT:  I was back and forth with everything this week.  I rode most of the week and then did a pull cart and played well.

Q.  When did you use the pull cart?
ELLEN PORT:  The first match, when we had one match.  But I know it's a hilly course, and I'm not in the greatest shape, and I was going to take advantage of the cart, but there is a pace that gets totally spoiled by the cart, even though I drove slow, and the adrenaline that I had needed to get worked out by walking.
When I wasn't‑‑ I was off a little bit.¬† I knew I was off.¬† I wasn't going to let it get me down.¬† I knew if I changed up and walked, it wasn't going to hurt because I wasn't doing that good on the front nine.¬† It was great to walk.¬† Whether it made a difference, I don't know‑‑

Q.¬† You were 3‑under par after you started walking.
ELLEN PORT:  It's better to walk, and I have a lot of energy, and I was pulling everything left, and when I missed that shot on 7 and left it short in the bunker, I was like oh my gosh, and I was fed up with myself.

Q.¬† How many rounds of golf are you playing these days?¬† You said you have not played much golf‑‑
ELLEN PORT:¬† I played more this summer, because with the exemption into the U.S. Amateur, I knew I was going to play, and I couldn't afford not to play much golf.¬† My last year I qualified for, I hadn't been playing golf, and we came off a 25th wedding anniversary, and I flew right to the course and I said, you know ‑‑ and I got a record 8th in July, which was special, and I went down to the North and South middle of the Julyand competed with the best gals, and I played in the U.S. Amateur, so I played in those three.¬† The U.S. Am was August8th, then I go back to the golf team and just trying to keep, you know, keep playing enough to stay sharp.

Q.¬† In that one‑month period when you're back to your real life, how many times were you playing?¬† I know we have daylight savings‑‑
ELLEN PORT:  Then we started school, so I'm playing on the weekends.

Q.  So two rounds a week?
ELLEN PORT:¬† Uh‑huh, and it probably wasn't even full‑‑ yeah, then in the mornings I had time to practice because I go in to work in the afternoon, so I would practice maybe twice a week and go on the weekends.

Q.  Going back to the match before the back nine, I thought there were two key moments on the front.  Because the front you had four bogeys, double bogey, you were in a lot of bunkers, but there was a birdie putt at 3 and a par putt at 7.  Kinda just kept you in striking distance.
ELLEN PORT:¬† Right, and I was disappointed on 1.¬† I hit a great drive, 187 in between a 4‑iron and a 3H, and I hit a perfect shot and it went over the back on a flat spot.¬† I took a pitching wedge, and I hit that too hard, and here I got unlucky that it rolled over the green, and I was disappointed with that, and I made that birdie.
I would agree you have to have a couple good things like that happen, and Jane didn't‑‑ I don't know, did she have a birdie on the front?

Q.  Yes.
ELLEN PORT:¬† Which one did she birdie?¬† I can't remember.¬† But we both‑‑ yeah.¬† Six was the killer.

Q.¬† She hit it in the‑‑
ELLEN PORT:¬† I'm at 127 yards away with a 9‑iron in my hand, and I pull it left into the bunker.¬† That was my biggest test.¬† Like oh my gosh, you know?
Then when I came back on 7 and had the hole and made that putt ‑‑ that was a big mistake on my part.¬† Then the train went by on 3, and I was upset that I didn't wait for that to go, and I just needed to take a deep breath.¬† And that six hole could have been‑‑ that was just like, gosh, Ellen, are you just going to hand this over?¬† I talking to myself during the round!

Q.  That was a turning point in a way.
ELLEN PORT:  Yeah, that was a turning point, and golf is not a game of being perfect, but that was the one big mistake that I shouldn't have made, and that can come back and haunt you, but I didn't think about that.  I was positive.

Q.¬† From her perspective she talked about 9 and 11 being pivotal moments for her, 9 with the 3‑putt bogey.¬† Are you feeling her mood change?
ELLEN PORT:  No, not at all, because she is a good player and I can't control what she is doing.
I didn't‑‑ no.¬† I just knew I needed to get busy.

Q.  She told me 15 she went for it, she had to do something at that point, and it ended up burning her in the end.  What are you thinking about?  I saw you helping to try to find the ball and close out the match at the same time.  What are you thinking about?
ELLEN PORT:  Right, right, well, yeah, you never hope anything like that happens, but I asked myself what would I do in that situation.
Being down on the bottom of the hill isn't an easy shot either, because it's wet and I've chunked a few down there and that's a shot she is capable of hitting, I'm capable of hitting it.  I was glad I didn't get another 10 yards, because I would have thought it was easier to hit a 5 onto that green, and I am trying to block out what I did the last time I was on that hole, and it was uncomfortable.  My feet were above the ball when I hit, and when she hit her shot I thought it could be iffy because I know it went left, and that gunch comes in.
I know she was disappointed because she put her whole heart and soul into that match, and for it to end on that note ‑‑ but I was expecting her to put that ball on the green within 1‑putt range, because that is the kind of player she is.

Q.¬† It had to be a helpless feeling for her to get back in the cart and go back to the tee‑‑
ELLEN PORT:  Yeah, I could tell that, yeah.

Q.  What does this championship mean to you?
ELLEN PORT:¬† It means I'm getting old, I'm a senior!¬† (Chuckles.)¬† Oh, on gosh, it's a National, and I'm telling you I had more fun meeting people.¬† The women in this field have game and they love playing golf, and they're some of my best friends.¬† We have grown up in the ranks.¬† To be back here ‑‑ it felt like they were in another tournament that I didn't get to play in.
I felt like I was out of this secret society, the senior society, so I'm back with my friends who love to compete, and they're going to be back here next year trying to dethrone me, so it's an honor to be another USGA Champion, and to have a medal and a flag in the same year that I won the Mid‑Am.¬† I am so shocked and ecstatic.

Q.  Where do you keep these now five gold medals?
ELLEN PORT:¬† Yeah, they're in a drawer‑‑ I need a better place to keep them.¬† I will but them out before I get ready to go, I put 'em out sometimes just to remind me.¬† I have my flags framed, but I just have them in various spots.¬† I need to find a better place to display them.¬† I have three of them framed with the flag and the trophies.¬† I am fortunate to play in a couple of clubs and one of the clubs held my Mid‑Am trophy, and then there is another club that I play out of and it and went there‑‑

Q.  Two of your medals are framed?
ELLEN PORT:  Two are framed and the other two are in a box in a little drawer.  Yeah, yeah.

Q.¬† What about the historical significance now?¬† I mean, we talked about how you and Carol are the only ones‑‑ Carol Semple Thompson, you have these two, and also you had a chance to look at this.¬† You're in a rarified era, five USGA Champions.¬† There is only ten of you, Mickey Wright, famous names.¬† What does that mean?
ELLEN PORT:  It's great, I'm a puny fish in a puddle, not even a big fish in a pond, but the thing is we all have it in common.  Everybody takes the game a different way and we were at the professional route, and Andy and I decided that wasn't the route we wanted to take.  To do everything I do and still juggle and be a champion makes me more grateful, because there are days when it's hard.
I'm torn between what to do, and I have to come home and stay up late, and we all make our sacrifices, and it's great respect for all the people that go before me.  They're way better than me.  But history and golf go together, and to be a small part of it is an honor.

Q.  I know this is sensitive, but I want to ask you about this:  Andy has cancer.  When was he diagnosed?
ELLEN PORT:  In March.

Q.  Of this year?

Q.  When you were up there saying, "I have a lot going on," you have had a lot going on.
ELLEN PORT:  Right, right. 

Q.  Y'all have been married 25 years?
ELLEN PORT:  27 now, I think!  (Chuckles.)

Q.  What has that been like?  I know you've been a cheerleader for him, because that's the way you are.
ELLEN PORT:  He's more of a cheerleader for me than I am for him, so finally I get a chance to cheer for him.

Q.  Talk about the shock and what happened.
ELLEN PORT:¬† Yeah, you know, we deal with things‑‑ we found that out, you just then have to deal with the practical side of it, what are we going to do, what are our options?
You know, we just kind of prayed about it and we said, you know, we know that the Lord has this in control and there were neat things that happened along the way that directed us toward getting surgery, and he was thinking about, well, maybe we'll have it in Julyand, of course, I'm thinking, now wait a minute!  How does this fit in with golf?  I'm just kidding.
Once we made the decision to do surgery, it worked out to have a Junedate, so the month of Junewas surgery and rehab, and he recovered beautifully, right on schedule, and we wanted to take a family vacation by the end of Julyand he met that‑‑ he felt great.¬† He played golf the first time July20th, up to some friends' house, so from June7th to when he had the surgery to July20th, we played golf together, and it was then behind us.¬† So Junewas kinda just one of those survival months and each day got better‑‑

Q.  How did you survive?
ELLEN PORT:¬† One day at a time, one day at a time, you know?¬† He is an easy patient.¬† He is my biggest fan and for 27 years he's cheerleaded me through anything that I‑‑ my golf, our family, the up's and down's I have had, and this is the first thing that he has had that has been something ‑‑ we had to be overcomers.

Q.  Didn't he have radiation?

Q.  Chemo?
ELLEN PORT:  Nope, no, there was originally more in it than we thought, and there was a lot on the perimeter, so we'll have to see what happens.  It makes you grateful.  You put things into perspective, and we're fortunate that we caught it early.

Q.  And he's going to be okay?
ELLEN PORT:  Oh, yeah.

Q.¬† Now, he's often been your caddie.¬† Did he caddie for you at the Mid‑Am?
ELLEN PORT:¬† Yeah, we do it based on what the kids have going on.¬† It was the best thing for him to stay‑‑ at this time for the Senior, and do the Mid‑Am.¬† He loves the people.¬† He knows so many of the Mid‑Am players, and he caddies, and we have our friends.
He was with me at Essex when I won my first one, and he was with me when I won my second Am, and at Newport Beach, we had a 1 year old and a 3 year old, and he was trying to find a way to fly me home on the Cardinal's plane, and he was desperate.  He was at my next one, so three out of four.

Q.  All three of those?
ELLEN PORT:  Three out of my four victories, not at the one at Newport Beach.

Q.  How much do you miss him?
ELLEN PORT:¬† Tons.¬† This morning he gave me encouraging words, and I love this texting, I woke up at three o'clock and I was tired, and I felt great but I was like, oh my gosh, and he told me to play my game‑‑ he always says, "You don't have anything to prove."¬† And I do tend to put pressure on myself.¬† I have high expectations, anybody who plays and wins has high expectations, and he's always like, "Honey you don't have anything to prove.¬† You're a champ, just play your game."

Q.What is his occupation?
ELLEN PORT:  He's a commercial real estate broker.
THE MODERATOR:  Ellen, thanks for coming in.
ELLEN PORT:  My pleasure.

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