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One Hall of Famer to Another – Tennant plays alongside Sorenstam at U.S. Senior Women’s Open

by Tom Cade, Editor

At the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open, held Aug. 25-28 at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, Lara Tennant of Portland, Ore. was paired with Annika Sorenstam in the first two days of the national championship.

Annika Sorenstam, Leta Lindley and Lara Tennant (left to right), after finishing on the 18th green of the first round of the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

It was, you could easily say, one of the marquee pairings of the championship.

Back in April, Tennant was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame. Sorenstam was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003.

Tennant had earned exemption into the championship by winning the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur (which had been her third title in a row in that national championship).

It was no accident that Tennant was paired with Sorenstam. It is protocol for the reigning U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion to play with the defending U.S. Senior Women’s Open champion. In the first two rounds of last year’s championship, Tennant was paired with Helen Alfredsson, who had won the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open (the 2020 championship had been canceled due to COVID-19).

Along with Tennant and Alfredsson in that 2021 championship pairing was World Golf Hall of Famer Juli Inkster. Not a bad group either.

And how was it to play alongside Sorenstam, the defending champion and one of the most recognizable golfers on the planet?

“Well, on Thursday (the first round), we had quite a large gallery,” Tennant said. “I had not really experienced anything like that. I tried not to look around a lot; just tried to stay in my own bubble.”

As Tennant typically does, she had a family member as her caddie for the championship. This time it was her 21-year-old daughter, Grace. “She had caddied for me in last year’s championship, with the buzz following us because of Helen (Alfredsson) and Juli (Inkster),” Tennant said. “So Grace was used to people watching everything we were doing. She handled it really well this year, and was so good to have with me on the course.”

And Tennant’s impression of Sorenstam? “She’s just a very lovely person, very friendly,” she said. “The thing I noticed the most about her was how much she respects the game, and respects anyone who plays it. All the players on the course during the week were treated the same by her.”

What made the experience even better for Tennant was that the third player in her group the first two days was Leta Lindley. All three players – Tennant, Sorenstam and Lindley – had played for the University of Arizona (although not at the same time). “We had this great connection because of our shared history at Arizona,” Tennant says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better grouping; there really was a great sense of support among us.”

Lara Tennant, Leta Lindley and Annika Sorenstam (left to right) all played golf for the University of Arizona (although not at the same time). They were paired together during the first two rounds of the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

All three players would make the cut in the championship, with Lindley finishing second, one shot back of the winner, Jill McGill. Sorenstam finished tied for fifth. Tennant finished 28th. “Leta is one of the better putters I’ve ever seen,” Tennant said. “I’m not surprised she finished so well.”

How was it playing the NCR Country Club in national championship conditions? “That was one tough golf course,” Tennant said. “I was playing defensively the whole time. The bluegrass rough and fringes around the greens were very unpredictable. And the greens were very complex and very fast; you had to be on the right side of the hole or you were in trouble. I remember lagging a 7-foot putt.”

It has been a summer of rewards for Tennant. Because of her stellar play over the past few years, she had earned exemptions into a string of high-profile events. In early July she traveled to the Highlands of Scotland to play in the R&A Women’s Senior Amateur at Royal Dornoch – she finished second (and had won this championship in 2019). “That really was a remarkable experience,” said Tennant, of playing Royal Dornoch. “So much history in that area.”

Then it was the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur in Anchorage, Alaska in late July, where she attempted to win an unprecedented fourth title in a row, but fell in the round of 16. The following week she competed in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay, and two weeks later her experience of playing with Sorenstam at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

On September 17-22, Tennant will compete in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, to be held at Fiddlesticks Country Club in Fort Myers, Fla.

It has been a mix of match-play championships and stroke-play championships. “It really doesn’t matter much to me,” Tennant said. “I approach both the same way, with the same kind of game plan.”

Tennant’s golf travels are usually a family affair. Her husband Bob, father George, her step-mother and sister-in-law, along with daughter Grace as her caddie, were with her at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. And at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, her husband Bob will be her caddie.

Her regional golf schedule has been somewhat limited, because of all the opportunities her fine play has opened up for her. “The past three or four years have been like this,” she says. “It won’t last forever, so I’m really just enjoying it while I can. To have my family with me on the journey has made it all the more special.”

Yes, it has all been special.