PNGA Player of the Year Lara Tennant reaches final in U.S. Senior Women's Amateur
Defending champion Lara Tennant, of Portland, Ore., and Sue Wooster, of Australia, will square off in consecutive years for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship. Tennant had defeated Wooster in last year’s final match to win the 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
Tennant was named the 2018 PNGA Senior Women’s Player of the Year, and earlier this summer took low amateur honors at the LPGA’s Suquamish Clearwater Legends Cup, held at White Horse Golf Club in Kingston, Wash.
Tennant and Wooster won a pair of matches on Wednesday at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Country Club: Tennant in comfortable fashion, while the 2018 runner-up Wooster survived two nail-biters that went to the final green.
This is the first time in 58 playings of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur that the finalists from the previous year will meet again in the championship match. Tennant defeated Wooster, 3 and 2, last October at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Golf Club in Vero Beach, Fla. The last time the same two players met in back-to-back USGA finals was in 2013-14, when Julia Potter-Bobb and Margaret (Shirley) Starosto played in U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur finals, with Potter-Bobb winning the first and Starosto the second.
Tennant, the No. 5 seed, topped No. 13 Lynne Cowan, of Rocklin, Calif., 5 and 4, in the morning quarterfinals, and No. 24 seed Patricia Ehrhart, of Honolulu, Hawaii, 4 and 2, in the afternoon semifinals. Ehrhart, 53, was playing in her third USGA semifinal since 2016, but was unable to dent Tennant, who won holes 2-3 with birdies and played even-par golf in winds that gusted to 25 miles an hour on the 5,732-yard, Donald Ross-designed layout.
“The wind was swirling, so it was even difficult to predict which direction it was going, so club selection was tough,” said Tennant, who improved to 11-1 in match play in three years of this championship and once again had her father, George Mack Sr., as her caddie. “But I think we did a pretty good job of it.”
The key hole of their semifinal may have been No. 10, when Tennant was bunkered both off the tee and on her approach. She blasted out to 25 feet and holed the putt for par. When Ehrhart three-putted, she went 3 down, losing a hole that it appeared she might win.
Wooster, the No. 34 seed, edged both Laura Webb, of Ireland, in the morning quarterfinals and Caryn Wilson, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., in the semifinals, 1 up. In both cases, she made a par on the 320-yard 18th hole while her opponent struggled with the demanding green. Webb three-putted, while Wilson made 6 from behind the green. Wooster also defeated seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port on No. 18 in the Round of 32 on Tuesday when Port double-bogeyed the hole.
“It’s the most severe green I’ve ever played,” said Wooster, who tied for 40th in last year’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open. “But I did hit a nice shot in each time, underneath the hole, so that might have given me a bit of an advantage.”
When asked what she took out of last year’s final against Tennant, Wooster deadpanned, “Losing.”
“Imagine, 132 players and it comes down to us again,” said Wooster. “I’m just going to give it my all. This morning on the back nine [vs. Webb] I nearly lost that match. I went out with the attitude this afternoon that I was going to give it my all and just try and play a lot more aggressively. If I won, I won. If I didn’t, so what. I’ll be happy.”
Wilson squared the match with a par on the par-5 15th, and Wooster coaxed a comebacker in for par on No. 17 to keep the match tied before winning No. 18 for the third time.
“Last year, I felt like my game was a lot better,” said Wooster. “It’s been kind of all over the place and I just sort of play by feel. My putting has been good. It’s just amazing. Last year because I was hitting the ball really well and I was hitting lots of greens, this year just sheer determination to try and make the final again.”
Ehrhart defeated No. 48 seed Tina Barker, of Fairfield, Calif., 4 and 2, and Wilson defeated No. 3 seed Mary Ann Hayward, of Canada, 5 and 4, in their morning quarterfinal matches.
- Sue Wooster is a member of the same club in Australia as Gabriela Ruffels, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. They belong to Victoria Golf Club, which is also the club where Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion at Winged Foot Golf Club, grew up playing.
- Lara Tennant comes into the championship match having played 79 holes, with a 1-up victory against Susan West in the Round of 64 the only time she has played No. 18 in match play. Wooster has played 86 holes in her five victories, three of them by 1-up scores.
- “I felt like I had things pretty much under control. I had a lot of confidence in my short game. Even if I missed a green, if I put it in the right place, I felt like there was a good chance I could get it up and down.” – Lara Tennant, on battling the windy conditions at Cedar Rapids Country Club on Wednesday
The 18-hole championship match will be played starting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. All quarterfinalists in the championship receive exemptions into the 2020 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at the Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Ala. Semifinalists earn two-year exemptions, while the runner-up earns a three-year exemption. The champion earns a 10-year exemption and possession of the championship trophy for one year. Both finalists are also exempt into the 2020 U.S. Senior Women’s Open, along with other exemptions.