Lara Tennant of Portland, Ore. defeated Ellen Port of St. Louis, Mo., 2 and 1, to win the 59th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, held this week at The Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Ala.
Tennant, the No. 1 seed in the match-play bracket, has now won this national championship three years in a row. She won the title in 2018 and 2019, with the championship being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She now joins rare company for this championship, as only two other players have won at least three consecutive titles – Carolyn Cudone, who won five in a row (1968-1972), and Carol Semple Thompson, who won four in a row (1999-2002).
Adversaries today, Port and Tennant had teamed together earlier this year to compete in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. They are no strangers to each other’s games.
With her golf game, Tennant does not need any good luck charms, but just in case, she wore the same black and white skirt in today’s final match that she wore in the final matches of her 2018 and 2019 victories.
“I love that trophy; it’s so beautiful, and it’s been at my house for quite a while, because of COVID and winning the two previous years, so I’ve gotten kind of attached to it,” said Tennant, 54, at the post-match ceremony. “It’ll go in the front entry, where it’s been now for three years, as a beautiful reminder of how lucky I am.”
The two players began the final match yesterday, but it was called after just two holes because of heavy rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Nicholas. When play resumed today, the weather had cleared and the players continued under blue skies. Tennant had won the second hole yesterday, so once play resumed today on the third hole, she had a 1-up lead.
Tennant had built a 2-up lead after five holes, but Port won the seventh and ninth holes, and the two players were tied as they headed to the back nine.
Tennant then won holes 12 and 14 for a 2-up lead, and carried it through, closing out the match on the 17th hole.
“When I won my first one, it was for my dad [George Mack, Sr.],” said Tennant, who played at the University of Arizona. “The second one [in 2019 at Cedar Rapids, Iowa] my husband Bob was able to be there and I won that one for him. This one, I won for my mom [Jan McHugh]. My mom is the greatest cheerleader. She’s not a golfer herself, but she raised five golfers, and she’s watched a lot of golf, and she’s just so supportive. She’s just so proud to be watching us play, regardless of the outcome.”
This was a final match between titans of the women’s national golf scene. Tennant was named the PNGA Senior Women’s Player of the Year in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She also won the British Senior Women’s Amateur in 2019. Earlier this year Tennant competed in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and the U.S. Women’s Amateur, being exempted into these championships by virtue of her titles in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
Tennant has five children, and serves as the Junior Golf Chair on the executive committee of the Oregon Golf Association.
Port had won this championship three previous times (2012, 2013, 2016), and has also won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur four times (1995, 1996, 2000, 2011). Among women’s championships, Port’s seven USGA national titles is second only to the eight titles won by PNGA Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner.
“Ellen Port is one of the greatest USGA champions of all time,” said Tennant. “I don’t know how to describe her to people because she has everything. She has tremendous skill, a tremendous mind on the golf course, and I feel fortunate to call her a friend. I was lucky in that I was able to play just a little bit better today than she did.”
- Tennant has 18 consecutive match wins in this championship. Her last – and only – loss came in the Round of 64 in 2017, when she was medalist and No. 1 seed on her home course, Waverley Country Club. Port has a 30-6 record in her nine starts in this championship.
- Port was seeking her eighth USGA title, which would have put her in esteemed company with Jack Nicklaus and JoAnne Carner.
- Tennant receives custody of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Trophy for one year, as well as a gold medal and a 10-year exemption into this championship. She also earns a two-year exemption into the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship and an exemption into the 2021 and 2022 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs – this year’s Women’s Mid-Am is scheduled for Sept. 25-30 at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton, S.C. – and the 2022 and 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateurs.
- Port received a silver medal and a three-year exemption into this championship as well as an exemption into the 2021 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open and the 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
- The next two U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs will be played at Anchorage (Alaska) Golf Course (July 30-Aug. 4, 2022) and Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2023).
- Lara Tennant and Carol Semple Thompson are the only medalists to have won this championship in the match-play era, which began in 1997. Thompson did so in 2002, the last of her four straight wins.