When she was young, Ellen Port thought golf was a boring, silly game. My, how times have changed. “Golf is the total package. It’s something new every time I get up and play—from who I play with, to what I need to do to get better. I never get tired of it,” Port says now.
Port, a top amateur golfer, certainly has changed her mindset in the 25 years since she first gave the game serious consideration. An all-around athlete growing up in Gladstone, Mo., she picked up the clubs after moving to St. Louis post-college, and people around her quickly noticed her natural swing and ability to hit the ball 150 yards. “It’s a difficult, elusive game, but when you’re an athlete who is used to success, you think, Why can’t I do this?” she explains. “It was a perfect fit for my athletic ability plus my love of a challenge.”
Although Port didn’t start playing until her 20s, she quickly made up for lost time, and the trajectory of her career has been impressive. Every year marked another milestone. Port has won the Missouri Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championship seven times; qualified for the U.S. Women’s Mid Amateur 22 times, winning four; competed in the U.S. Women’s Open three times; and has been a member of the Curtis Cup team. “It was a fast flight for me, especially because I had to play catchup. But finding success at every level—from the local Tuesday morning ladies’ league to national tournaments— was important because winning breeds success and confidence.”
Although that success is still very important to Port, inspiring young golfers may be even more so. A physical education teacher and coach for 27 years at John Burroughs School, she began coaching boys’ golf in 1990 and took over the girls’ program last year. “My goal is for them to catch a glimpse of the passion I have for the game,” she says. “No matter what their ability, I have so much fun working with them and doing whatever I can to help them enjoy the game and become lifelong golfers.
Port was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year, and will join the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in November. While she considers the honors a tremendous compliment from people she greatly respects, she’s not setting down the clubs anytime soon.
The golfer looks forward to trying to win the Missouri Amateur for the eighth time (“I feel like my swing is even better now at age 50”), with her husband, Andy, and children, Drew and Katie, supporting her every step of the way. “Someone said to me the other day, Wow, you must really love this game. And I really do. It’s not work to me at all—it’s just so much fun.”