Lara Tennant of Portland, Ore. has pulled off a remarkable achievement, successfully defending her title today in the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, winning her second consecutive USGA national title. After winning the title in 2018, Tennant was named the 2018 PNGA Senior Women’s Player of the Year.
When Tennant arrived at Cedar Rapids Country Club to begin her title defense in the 58th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, a repeat performance was not on her radar.
“When I shot 70 in the first round of stroke play, I said I’m so glad I played OK, so that people won’t think my victory was a fluke,” said Tennant, 52.
Tennant backed up her 2018 triumph in remarkably similar fashion: she earned the No. 5 seed in stroke play (No. 10 last year), then marched through the bracket, ultimately meeting her co-finalist from last year, Sue Wooster of Australia, and prevailing by the exact same 3-and-2 margin on Thursday morning. But it was not a repeat performance in golf terms.
“This week, my swing wasn’t as crisp as it was last year,” said Tennant. “There were times I was confident this week and I played well, but I would say mentally you just have to grind it out, play against par instead of your opponent. That’s what I continued to do throughout the week, to stay calm.”
Tennant lost the second hole after a poor drive, but she rebounded to win No. 4 with a par and took her first lead of the day when she parred the 183-yard par-3 eighth hole after Wooster found the water with her tee shot for a double bogey. Wooster then missed three consecutive fairways, and Tennant captured both the 10th and 11th holes with pars to Wooster’s bogeys to take firm control.
“You know what? Sue is a tough competitor and a fabulous golfer,” said Tennant, who played at the University of Arizona. “Last year I honestly apologized to Sue for beating her because at this point in the game, when you’ve played 10 rounds in eight days you’re both exhausted, you both worked hard, you both played well. I really had to not be distracted and just focus on my game. You don’t get many opportunities to be in the finals of a USGA championship.”
Wooster, who won three matches on the 18th hole, including her quarterfinal and semifinal wins on Wednesday, cut into the lead on the par-4 13th when she made a gritty up-and-down and Tennant three-putted. Leading 2 up, Tennant got a crucial break on the next hole. With both players on the plateau green of the par-4 14th in two, Tennant hit the flagstick with her putt from 45 feet away, with the ball stopping a few inches from the hole. Had it not hit the stick, it would have rolled several feet past.
“I think that was the critical shot,” said Tennant. “The ball didn’t go in, but it gave me a two-putt on a very, very long putt. I had been quite a distance away on each of the two previous holes and three-putted them, so I needed a two-putt in there. You have to get some of those breaks in order to win.”
“Sometimes you just say what can you do?” said Wooster. “It’s tough, but you always expect your opponent – you’ve got to expect that stuff to happen.”
Both players made two-putt pars on the par-5 15th, and when Wooster missed another fairway to the right on No. 16, she needed to aim away from the flagstick on her approach. Tennant made a comfortable par after a crisp iron shot, and when Wooster’s 8-foot try for an up-and-down missed, the match was over.
“When your swing is a little bit off, you just have to learn to play by your gut,” said Wooster, who finished 40th in last year’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open. “My putting kept me in it. I had only one or two three-putts the whole week. And having said that, I didn’t really hole anything, either. Didn’t hole any 10-, 15-footers, so that was disappointing.”
- Before Sue Wooster on Thursday, the most recent player to lose back-to-back USGA finals was Davis Riley (2013 and 2014 U.S. Juniors). Wooster was looking to become the 24th player (out of 661 match-play championships) to win a USGA title after losing in the final of that same championship the previous year.
- This was also the ninth time there has been a rematch in a USGA championship final and the fourth time it has happened in consecutive years. On all but two occasions, including this final, the loser of the first match has won either the second or third time. The other player to lose two finals to the same opponent was Lewis Oehmig, who fell to Dale Morey in the 1974 and 1977 U.S. Senior Amateur finals.
- Previous repeat finals by championship with winning year by player: U.S. Amateur: Bob Jones (1924) vs. George Von Elm (1926). U.S. Women’s Amateur: Glenna Collett (1928, 1930) vs. Virginia Van Wie (1932); Estelle Lawson Page (1937) vs. Patty Berg (1938); Marlene Stewart Streit (1956) vs. JoAnne Gunderson (1966). U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur: Julia Potter (2013) vs. Margaret Shirley Starosto (2014). U.S. Senior Amateur: Frederick J. Wright (1956) vs. J. Clark Espie (1957); Dale Morey (1974, 1977) vs. Lewis Oehmig; Greg Reynolds (2002) vs. Mark Bemowski (2004). U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur: Lara Tennant (2018, 2019) vs. Sue Wooster.
- Lara Tennant is the eighth player to successfully defend her title in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. She also becomes the 71st player to successfully defend her title across all USGA championships, including stroke-play events (some players have accomplished the feat more than one time).
- Dan Reardon covered his first USGA championship in 1985, the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills Country Club. Reardon, a reporter for KMOX Radio in St. Louis as well as a longtime high school golf coach, was on hand on Thursday for the championship final, which marked his 61st USGA championship. His presence also gives Reardon a rare achievement, something he refers to, tongue-in-cheek, as the “USGA Media Slam.” Reardon has now covered all 14 USGA championships for individuals, including two championships that have been retired: the U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. Reardon’s favorite USGA memory is the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah, where St. Louis native Hale Irwin improbably won his third U.S. Open.
Same outfit. Same result.
Lara Tennant hadn’t worn her lucky threads since last year’s #USSeniorWomensAm final until she did again today!
— USGA (@USGA) August 29, 2019
- “I do think the second time may be a little harder than the first because you understand how fun it is to win a USGA championship, how the year ahead is very exciting as a result. I really tried not to focus on those things, but it’s hard not to.” – Lara Tennant, a mother of five whose two youngest children, twins Caroline and Grace, are freshmen in college, one having started last week and one next week
- “Last year, she was playing really well, and this year was a little bit off. I figured somebody was going to beat us, but she played well when she had to. Yesterday afternoon [vs. Patricia Ehrhart in the semifinals], she had three birdies and a bogey, and that’s really good golf in the wind. We hung in there; she’s pretty competitive.” – George Mack Sr., 79, Lara Tennant’s father, who caddied for her in both USGA wins
- “You try and be as calm and focused and have as much clarity as possible, but you are under a lot of pressure. Sometimes your body just doesn’t do what your mind wants it to, and vice versa. I was surprised. I had a pretty good mindset when I hit those shots.” – Sue Wooster, on three missed fairways that proved costly in her loss to Tennant
Both players are exempt into the 2020 U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship, July 9-12, at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn., while Wooster is exempt into the next three U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs and Tennant is exempt into the next 10. The 2020 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur will be played Sept. 12-17 at the Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Ala.