Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Open Course Closes the Door on Port

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Open Course Closes the Door on Port

Article excerpt

Stranger things have happened. Catherine Lacoste won the U.S. Women's Open Championship as an amateur in 1967. Two other amateurs, Barb McIntire and Nancy Lopez, were second in 1956 and 1975, respectively.

It wouldn't be inventing the wheel for Ellen Port to put her name on the leaderboard here, or, at the least, make the cut today. She is, after all, the USGA Women's Mid-Amateur champion. She is a person of unusual skill who seems to thrive on the improbable.

"I can play a little bit," she said sheepishly, after a practice round Wednesday.

But this is big. This is the Academy Awards of women's golf, the brightest stage of them all. Some realities are tough to ignore.

"Put it this way, I don't think there are too many schoolteachers who are working a full-time job out here," said husband and caddie, Andy Port.

Reality caught up with Port in a harsh way Thursday. The physical education teacher and golf coach at John Burroughs School took her lumps in the testy morning wind and unforgiving length of Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. She stumbled to a first-round 84.

Andy Port knows it was a mirage. He knows his wife's abilities better than anyone, which is what made it so hard to watch.

"I know she's disappointed and obviously you don't like to see your wife struggle," he said. "It's hard because you can't do anything about it and you know she's a lot better golfer than she showed today. You just want her to play the way she's capable of playing."

One has come to expect the unexpected from Port. She is the coach of the boys golf team at John Burroughs, which recently won a state championship. She didn't even start playing golf until she was 25. Yet, less than 10 years later, she is a two-time member of the Curtis Cup team, has won two national titles - including the 1995 Mid-Amateur, and is playing in her third U.S. Open.

She is Jumanji - you never know what she is capable of next. But she also is human. School just let out; the spring weather in St. Louis has been abysmal. Her opportunities to play or practice have been limited.

Those are not conditions conducive to shocking the golf world and knocking it stiff at the U. …

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