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June 6, 2014

Ellen Port


THE MODERATOR:  5 & 1 after the first day, how do you feel after the first day under your belt.
ELLEN PORT:  Great, but still mixed emotions because there's still a lot of golf.  I'm never one to get very excited with a big lead because I've seen them go away, but they did a great job.
I think there were some great matches.  I think there was a lot of energy, especially in the morning.  We came out, I don't know how many birdies, a lot of birdies.  They came out ready.  I knew they were going to play well and then I think they were a little‑‑ we had a lot of emotion and kind of sat down for lunch and you lose a little adrenaline.
We did pretty good this afternoon, too.

Q.  These things can come in waves, emotions high, emotions low.  What is the sense in the team room now, with the half‑point you didn't think you were going to get and then you end up with a half‑point‑‑
ELLEN PORT:  Yeah, I think that's a perfect example of what golf is all about.  You saw it right there, never give up.  They fought back and you're like, yeah, and then oh, only to let it slip away.  So Emma and Ally did great to come back.
They are fine.  These guys are like very stable.  I didn't go to the team room because I was upturning in my lineup and giving them their space.  Yeah, they are fine.  They are good.

Q.  Two years ago, the U.S. was up 4‑2, so with the 5‑1 lead, do you have to talk to the girls?
ELLEN PORT:  Normally that would be the talk that you give.  These girls are not normal.  When I saw something to them, I'm almost like, I don't need to tell you this but I'm the captain and I need to tell you this.
Perfect example, I didn't say thinking to them before they got here and they take ownership and Mariah spoke to the team before we teed off.  I have so much confidence in them and they know that.  They know that.  I've included them in decisions.  When I ask them, they are honest, if they don't care or if they have a strong preference, they come and tell me.
But you know, they know.  They have all been ‑‑ and probably what I'll just say is how many of you have been in a situation where you had an early lead and lost it; how many of you have been behind and come back, okay.
So what are some of the things that have worked, and we've just got to come out and hit one shot at a time.  It's still just the same.  So they will be just fine.  They are great.

Q.  What did Mariah said?
ELLEN PORT:  You know what, team‑‑ that we play for each other.  We play for and we care for each other, really, and of course for USA.  But pretty much just confirming that everybody, want to win for each other, that type of thing.
Like Emma says, Emma can say the same thing to Mariah, but always comes out better when Mariah says it.  So that's what I said and that's how I feel.  I could say something‑‑ and like I told TV, "Mariah for president" afterwards.  Everybody said, "Mariah for president."
Each person has a unique role on this team and that's Mariah's role.  So I think each person is allowed to be who they are and I think that's the cool thing about this team is that they are very comfortable with who they are, they like each other and I think that showed out there.
And you know, even if it had not gone our way, I think they would have been just exactly the same, and that's really nice.  I wouldn't have had to drum up anything, say, oh my God, you guys, we can do this, I know you can.
They are very poised, really good perspective, and yeah, it will be good to see.

Q.  Do you have a quiet leader, as well?
ELLEN PORT:  Well, we have Emma and we have got Ally the loud and Mariah, they are all just so different.  Look at Kyung.  They leads by her golf game.  Everybody just looks at Kyung as like they are almost speechless, because, what, how many birdies did she have?  Five birdies?  She didn't even think she hit her driver very well and she was just a machine.
They just lead by their golf and they enjoy each other.  And I didn't even think Mariah is a leader.  I'll tell you, everybody is kind of a leader.  I know Mariah likes to once in awhile say that but everybody has their own style of leadership and takes the lead.  You know, they are all just great.
I'm rambling.  That was a bad answer; strike that.

Q.  Did you have a plan to sit out a player‑‑
ELLEN PORT:  I had about six or seven plans.  Yes, that was one of my plans.

Q.  Is that out the window?
ELLEN PORT:  Well, you have to see how things go.  I knew that if there was a hot team, you know, the question is:  Do you split them up, do you keep them going.
Our team loves to play with everybody.  There's a method to the madness and when you move one person, it affects everybody.  So my thing is it's all about team.  We are all about team, and so I'm trying to put the best teams out there.
And the people that I sit, I'm not sitting anybody because they are not playing well.  I'm sitting because it makes the combinations I think, the strongest that we can; and based on personality, based on game, based on gut instinct, based on their feedback.
So yeah, the only thing I told them at the beginning of the week is that you will either play three, four or five times, and I think it's nice for a player to know that they are going to play every day.
And I said, it's not because you're not playing well.  It's because of madness, the way I operate of all the different combinations that can go out, depending on how things are going.

Q.  Does 5‑1 keep more of those plans on the table?
ELLEN PORT:  Not really.  It could.  I looked at it.  I visited that.  But 5‑1 isn't a big enough lead.

Q.  So who is sitting tomorrow?
ELLEN PORT:  I haven't announced it to my team yet, so I can't tell you.

Q.  You've been in a lot of these; lots of birdies, holes being halved‑‑
ELLEN PORT:  Yeah, I love that for the spectators.

Q.  Does that surprise you?
ELLEN PORT:  No.  No, no, no, no.  Oh, gosh, with this team‑‑ I mean, Stephanie Meadow and Georgia, they are the best.  They are great.  And for Emma and Mariah to come out of the blocks and play like that, that was spectacular.  Rick Potter said it might be the best match he's ever seen, and he's seen a lot of college and a lot of golf and he's out watching Stephanie and Emma.  Now there's a great story.
So, I'm not surprised.  Our players played so good yesterday in the practice round, I was like, oh, they are just on.  They are playing well and GB&I, great ball‑strikers, too.  We out‑putted them.  They putted better than us in some situations today.  I thought it was kind of more even.  We hit the shots when we had to.
Alison; how about that match.  Just kind of uncanny how these kids do, most of the time.  I know Ally is disappointed with Emma on the last hole to let that one slip away, but they fought back.

Q.  Ally made that very impressive pressure shot.
ELLEN PORT:  Yeah, and they had a blast out there.  I just love watching the team play.  They really, really enjoy the game and they enjoyed each other.  You know, Alison Lee is sticking it.  She missed a seven‑‑foot putt on 17 to tie the match, but Ashlan hit a great shot on 16 and then Ashlan hit a great shot on 17 and had a chance to win that hole.
Alison Lee will come back.  She makes more putts; I've seen her make more putts with her eyes closed almost.  She didn't put what she's capable of.  Come she's going to come back and really be playing well and putting well.

Q.  Can you talk about Ashlan coming down the stretch and the putt she made and the shots she was able to hit on 16, 17, 18?
ELLEN PORT:  I wasn't out there for all of them.  I didn't see the putt.  I was kind of off in the distance.  I saw her make the swing on 17 and that was strong.

Q.  And then the putt she made on 18?
ELLEN PORT:  Yeah, that was great.  I mean, it was just fantastic.  They are a great alternate‑shot team.

Q.  Do you have a story from your playing days‑‑
ELLEN PORT:  I can't remember if I had a big lead.  I haven't had‑‑ I don't lose too many big leads.  I've played really poorly in my second Curtis Cup.  I do remember playing great in my first one and I was really‑‑ didn't play well, personally, on that one.  But I can't remember.

Q.  Who were the leaders on the teams you played on?
ELLEN PORT:  Well, we had Sarah Ingram was in '94.  Carol Semple Thompson, she's always that quiet leader when she's there, and ‑‑ well Marla Jemseck played.
We had an interesting mix because we had half college‑‑ I think the dynamics when you have half college kids and half Mid‑Ams.  There's a whole different dynamic.  When we had Cristie Kerr on the team, I didn't feel like I was chumming up with Cristie.  She was a high school kid, and I don't‑‑ (laughter) still don't.  Yeah, the dynamics are really different.
So the Mid‑Ams, you know, were kind of, we knew each other, and the college kids‑‑ and I had Kelly Kuehne.  Kelly was on a roll in Killarney and she was a leader on the field.  Wendy Ward was on the team and Wendy is a great leader, as well.  Then we had Jill McGill.
That was a long time ago.  I can't answer those questions from a long time ago.

Q.  When you played over the three days, what was the time that you felt the most fatigued?
ELLEN PORT:  You mean when I played?  We only had two days when I played.  And never‑‑ we weren't tired, no.

Q.  You said all the girls played well; did anybody surprise you today?
ELLEN PORT:  Well, I mean, nobody surprised me because they are all capable of lighting it up like that.  I'm not surprised by anything.
I wouldn't have been surprised‑‑ guys, I'm old.  Nothing will shock me.  I was prepared to be down 6‑0; it would have been preposterous but it happens.  I'm just kind of like, anything can happen and I never think we're going to win.  I never think we're going to lose.
I think that's why I've won so many championships, because you have to get in this mode that it's just a golf shot.  You know, if you're down, you're going to come back.  If you're up, you've got to be careful and don't think you're going to win.  You just have to stay in the moment.
So I really‑‑ I'm not surprised by anything, and that's why I just‑‑ because we've been around here long enough.  They could come back and win every match.  I totally, totally, would not be surprised if they come back‑‑ and I wouldn't be surprised if we won every point out there in the morning.  So it's just kind of, I don't want to over‑analyze it because it's just golf.
But I'm just proud of them.  Rather than be surprised, I'm just so proud.  I knew they could do it.  So it's more not a surprise that Ashlan and Kyung and Alison came back and Mariah then lit it up.  I think it's awesome when they play their best when it really matters, and you hit the shot that you need when you have to hit it.
Ally hit some great recovery shots.  So, yeah, no big surprises.  I'm a bad interview today (laughter).  These questions I'm having to think.

Q.  What did you think of the size of the galleries?
ELLEN PORT:  I loved it.  I thought this morning there was a lot of energy.  Seemed like there were more out there this morning than this afternoon.  People must have had to go to work.
People I think pretty much planned to come out‑‑ it's a long day.  I think people plan to come out in the morning, plan to come out in the afternoon, and then, you know, split it, maybe some people stayed and Sunday we'll get some crowds out, big crowds.  I loved it.  I thought it was fabulous.

Q.  Did you know a lot of people in the crowd?
ELLEN PORT:  Yeah, I talked more to people in the crowd than my players, that's for sure (laughter).  Because they don't need me, which is nice.  It frees me up to just give them their space.  I just want to make sure I'm visible and they can see me and know that if they need me, I'll be there.

Q.  You talk about how you said this group isn't normal.  Is that because of their level of talent?
ELLEN PORT:  Just the way, the combination of how well they get along, how confident they are and poised they are.  They just are great competitors and great people.
Yeah, to have a group of eight girls, you know, who get along so well and are laid back‑‑ they are very laid back, very calm.  And they get there and they are worrying about their hair, getting their hair in their stickers, and just comfortable and they are very accommodating, very supportive of me and who they are going to play with.  And maybe that's normal, I don't know.
Just they are very enjoyable to be around, and maybe, you know, they are just great kids.  I just think it's unusual to have a team that's this close, and to see the relationships that form over the Curtis Cup, like Ally and Annie, that pairing, they didn't really know each other before the spring practice session and they played marvelously together and they wanted to play with each other.  They respect each other.
I think there's a lot of respect; that's the word I'm looking for.  There's a lot of respect on this team for each other, genuine respect.  And it makes my job really easy.
So when I have to say, you guys are resting and Mariah is in there saying, "I like these pairings, Captain, these are good pairings."
And I've had to tell ‑‑ some of them want to play with certain people, just in a couple instances, and I've had to say, "I really want to make this work but it might not happen."
And, "That's okay, Captain."  They are just so nice.
Can you tell?  Have you been out there?  It's just the way they carry themselves.  The way Alison Lee waves when she hits a good shot, I just was pulling for her on 18, because she just is so gracious and so poised and so beautiful.  Just like, yeah, I hit another good shot.
Emma is talking to everybody.  And Kyung just kind of goes right along, doing her thing.  That's what I mean, each one of them does their‑‑ is comfortable with who they are.

Q.  How many times did you have to take a player aside and say something to them?
ELLEN PORT:  How many times?  Never pulled them aside.  I just walked‑‑ looked at them.  Ally's caddie wasn't feeling good for a minute, and so she called me over and Emma had a question about a ruling, called her over.  I just gave them a thumbs‑up.

Q.  So you truly didn't micromanage at all?
ELLEN PORT:  No.  I stayed back on the tee.  It's not about me at all.  It's about them doing their thing and having fun, and you know, my wheels are turning about, who am I going to play again; do I want to mix it up, do I keep it the same.  I'm always kind of thinking ahead.
And I know that they are playing well.  I was up doing pairings and I didn't get to see that last match.  That hour‑‑ I didn't want to waste my hour.  I was a little nervous, so I had the radio on, though.

Q.  Are you responsible for the choreography on all the dances?
ELLEN PORT:  No.  No.  They do that all themselves, their handshakes‑‑ that's what I think is so much fun about the girls, as opposed to the guys.  I think they are so fun to watch at this age without being overly silly, or losing focus.  They kind of do their deal and then, boom, they are right back in their zone.  They are able to step up there, and you can just kind of tell the way they walk, the way they conduct themselves.
GB&I, too.  I fully expect them to come back.  They are a formidable opponent.

Q.  Did you have any trouble coming up with the pairings for tomorrow, in the sense that you could have done different combinations?
ELLEN PORT:  Yeah, I'm going to try to keep a few of them the same.  And you have to kind of do your pairings based on who you want in the afternoon, too.
So my brain isn't as sharp as it used to, and I've got a plan‑‑ when you don't want to do is go, oh, these would be great pairings but then that doesn't put the people you really want in the afternoon.
So you kind of have to do pairings together, have a plan for the morning.  And then I have a couple, I actually have a couple of the kids, I'll be having a threesome that could go either way, they are very compatible with each other.  Tomorrow afternoon, for instance, I have a lineup but I also can sub one person in or another person in kind of based on gut instinct.  I like having options.
So I have kind of that little system where I can plug certain people in depending on what's going on.  But hopefully it will work out.  They still have to hit the golf shots, and that's what every girl just on my team says.  Captain, whoever you put me with, we'll be fine.  We'll get it done.  So that's a nice problem to have.

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