Golf has always been a family affair for Lara Tennant. Her parents were members at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, and her father, George Mack, was well-known locally for being a competitive player. Lara had four siblings, and everyone played golf.
Lara began playing the game at age 10, but it wasn’t love at first swing. “My brother and sister would drag me to the course,” Lara remembers. “I would complain and complain. I really did not want to be there.”
The club had a strong junior program, encouraged by Pacific Northwest Section PGA Hall of Famer Jerry Mowlds, the club’s longtime PGA head professional. Lara soon began to like the game a little bit more.
“In the summers, we’d be at the course from sunrise to sunset,” she recalls.
Lara was athletic, and participated in other sports, including skiing, but it became clear fairly quickly that golf was what she was best at. “By age 14, I actually felt like I was talented enough to play competitively,” she says. “To play well takes a lot of hard work and drive, and I had both.”
She attended Central Catholic High School, which had recently become co-ed, allowing girls to attend. In her freshman year, there was some doubt as to whether there would even be a girls’ golf team. But by her junior year, just the third year of the program, the girls’ team won the state high school championship, with Lara playing a starring role.
Recruited by several women’s college golf teams, Lara chose to attend the University of Arizona, where she played four years on a full golf scholarship.
“It was a good golf program,” she says of her college experience. “I played with All-Americans, and it was a challenge for me just to be the fourth or fifth player.”
Her college years taught her a lot about the game, and about life. “The travel, the work, the dedication of the players, yes, it helps you find out who you are.” She excelled in the classroom as well, earning Academic All-American honors. “I always enjoyed school, the classes, the learning, the work and discipline involved in that,” she says.
She never had the desire to play professionally. “I knew what the lifestyle was like (from her experience as a collegiate player), and I knew I didn’t want that,” she says. “I knew that I would always stay an amateur.”
During her collegiate career, she continued to keep her game sharp during the summers at home. She has won the Oregon Coast Invitational a remarkable 12 times, with many of those titles listing the winner as Lara Mack, her maiden name.
She met her husband, Bob, on a blind date at, yes, a golf course. He grew up next to the 12th hole at Waverley Country Club in Portland, and they made a natural pair. Within the first six years of marriage they had five children, the last two being twin daughters. Needless to say, life became very busy for a while.
But despite the busyness and the loving chaos that raising a large family brings, Lara would find time to play in the occasional tournament. “Bob always encouraged me to keep playing competitively,” she says. “I never really had time to practice. When I knew a tournament was coming up, I’d go out a couple days beforehand and do some practicing, but that was all. I still really enjoyed the competition.
“Being a busy mom, the golf course became a peaceful respite for me. Even playing in tournaments during those years, I really was never nervous, because of my experience in college but also because I just really felt at peace on the course.”
And gradually, inevitably, inexorably, the victories started to accumulate. Her first significant state title came with winning the Oregon Women’s Mid-Amateur in 2003. Over the next few years, a few more state titles were added – a Tournament of Champions win in 2004, another Mid-Amateur in 2008, a couple of Stroke Play titles (2007, 2009).
Then she got an interesting phone call. “Waverley Country Club called me and asked when I would be turning 50,” she recalls. “They were submitting a proposal to the United States Golf Association about hosting an upcoming U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, and they wanted to make sure I would be age-eligible to play in that national championship on my home course.”
So the championship was set for 2017, the year she would turn 50. “Now I had a goal,” she says. “I had more time to focus on my game, and I really put my sights on playing in that event. I read books about the game, I practiced, I learned how to play different shots. It really became a passion for me to rediscover the game, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
All that devotion and drive paid off when she earned co-medalist honors in the 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. And although she didn’t last long in match play that year, the overall experience ignited the desire in Lara for more.
“I had the drive, and felt very fortunate to be able to continue to get better,” she says. “I began to really understand my game, the boundaries and limits of it, and what my strengths are.”
The next near, 2018, was a breakout year for Lara. Entered again to play in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, she marched through the match-play bracket and defeated Sue Wooster 3 and 2 in the final match to win her first national championship.
The following year got better. She repeated as champion in the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, again defeating Sue Wooster in the final match by the identical result of 3 and 2, and then crossed the pond to win the British Senior Women’s Amateur. She competed in her second U.S. Senior Women’s Open, and continued to gather statewide titles.
The pandemic had canceled many events in 2020, so in 2021 Lara entered the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur and won the championship for the third year in a row, becoming only the third player to win three consecutive titles in the championship.
These national titles exempted Lara into several other championships. “I began to have so many opportunities to play,” she says. “I want to keep my game fresh for events, and I also approach my schedule with the thought of ‘Is this going to be an enjoyable experience.’”
And what makes each tournament most enjoyable for Lara is her family. “Playing in these championships, and playing in general, is a wonderful chance to be able to spend time with family,” she says. “They are the best support team imaginable. I know they provide unconditional love and support on the course.”
Her father George has caddied for her in each U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, and was there in the winner’s circle when she won her first title in 2018. In each national championship she’s played in, she’s had a family member as her caddie.
“My father has been the best supporter of my game on the course,” she said. She says she dedicated her U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur win in 2018 to him. She then dedicated her win in 2019 to her husband Bob, who couldn’t be there for the 2018 victory, staying home to be with their youngest daughters, twins Caroline and Grace. And when Lara won that championship again in 2021, she dedicated that victory to her mother Jan.
In trying to explain her successes on the national and international stage, Lara says it’s been something of a surprise. “It has been such a gift. And a trophy is great, and winning has been thrilling, but being able to share it with others, with my family, has made it all worthwhile. I really just love the game, love to play, love to compete, love the camaraderie and reconnecting with old friends. Golf really lends itself to being around great people. Yes, it’s all been a gift.”
Off the course, Lara has had an impact on the growth of the game. Since 2001 she has served on the Executive Committee of the Oregon Golf Association, as co-chair of Junior Golf. “My siblings and I all benefited from the strong commitment toward junior golf in the state when we were young,” she says. “I’ve never forgotten that, and I always wanted the chance to give back. For me now, the most rewarding part of it all is watching the junior programs expand, providing more opportunities to more young players, competitive and non-competitive.”
Yes, the journey has been a family affair for Lara, and it has grown and expanded and embraced the golf community at large.
- U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Champion – 2018, 2019, 2021
- U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Co-Medalist – 2017, 2021
- British Senior Women’s Amateur Champion – 2019
- U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, Round of 16 – 2021
- U.S. Senior Women’s Open Participant – 2018, 2019, 2021
- Oregon Tournament of Champions, Women’s Champion – 2004
- Oregon Women’s Stroke Play Champion – 2007, 2009
- Oregon Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion – 2003, 2008, 2017, 2018, 2021
- Oregon Senior Women’s Amateur Champion – 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
- Oregon Senior Women’s Stroke Play Champion – 2020
- California Senior Women’s Amateur Champion – 2020
- Oregon Coast Invitational Champion – 12 times
- OGA Women’s Player of the Year – 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021
- PNGA Senior Women’s Player of the Year – 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021
- PNGA Lamey Cup Participant – 8 times
- Qualified for 21 USGA Championships
- Inducted into Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame – 2022