(Vero Beach, Fla.) - Lara Tennant arrived at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club having won just one match in a USGA amateur championship in eight starts. Thanks to a week of solid ball-striking and coolness under pressure, the 51-year-old Portland, Ore., resident will be leaving as the 57th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion. Tennant never trailed on Thursday, defeating Sue Wooster, 56, of Australia, 3 and 2, in the 18-hole championship match.
Nerves might have played a role coming down the stretch for Tennant, the No. 10 seed in match play. Safely on the green with her tee shot on the par-3 15th hole, she watched as Wooster lagged her lengthy birdie try to 3 feet, effectively giving Tennant two putts to win the match. However, she left her first putt from 40 feet 18 feet short, and she couldn’t make her par save. Wooster made par to extend the match and win her only hole of the day. Tennant found herself in a similar position on the following hole, the par-4 16th, when she hit her approach shot from the right rough to about 35 feet past the hole from 125 yards. She had no issues with her lag putting this time, cozying it up to concession range and sealing the victory.
Tennant led from the outset on Thursday, rolling in a 12-foot birdie try on No. 1. Her lead could have been even larger had Wooster, who struggled with her putter most of the day, not made a 40-foot, downhill birdie putt on the third hole. Tennant, who had hit her approach shot from 125 yards to 9 feet, rolled in her birdie try to halve the hole. After seven straight halved holes, Tennant took a 2-up lead at the turn when she made a 20-foot downhill putt to save par on No. 9 after Wooster couldn’t get up and down from the bunker fronting the green.
What the Champion Receives
-Custody of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Trophy for one year
-10-year exemption in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur
-2-year exemption into the U.S. Senior Women’s Open
-2-year exemption into the U.S. Women’s Amateur
-2-year exemption into the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur
-As the runner-up, Wooster receives an exemption into the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open, as well as a three-year exemption into the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur and exemptions into the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
-Tennant became the ninth alumnus of the University of Arizona to win a USGA championship, and the first since Annika Sorenstam won the 2006 U.S. Women’s Open. Others include Ricky Barnes (2002 U.S. Amateur) and Jim Furyk (2003 U.S. Open).
-With the usual match-play concessions, Tennant was even par over 16 holes on Thursday and Wooster was 3 over par.
-Tennant’s father, George Mack, 78, served as her caddie throughout the week. Mack has played in five USGA championships, including the 1990 U.S. Senior Open and 1996 U.S. Senior Amateur.
Lara Tennant, of Portland, Ore., on what set the tone for her week: “I think what gave me confidence is my second nine on the second day of [stroke play]. I was the last tee time, the wind was blowing, it rained four times, and I shot 35 on this side. That gave me a boost of confidence that, OK, I can play this golf course, even under the toughest conditions.”
Tennant, on leaving her birdie putt short on No. 15, her first chance to close out the match: “The only thing that made me feel better, [three-time Senior Women’s Amateur champion] Ellen Port told me, ‘Lara, I would've left that short, too.’ I just misread it. I thought it was going to get to the peak and just trickle down and it didn't.”
Tennant, on how her approach changed once she built a lead on the back nine: “You start thinking about just parring in and letting your opponent play really well to beat you. So I wasn't as aggressive in my approach shots. I made sure on No. 16 I had plenty of club to get over the water. You just play a little more defensive, smarter golf.”
Tennant, on what made the difference in her success this week compared to previous USGA championships: “I would say except for last year, all of the other USGA championships I played in, I probably prepared two weeks before. With five kids I was never prepared like I am now. Since I turned 50 I was able to have the time to prepare, and I would say I have a new passion for golf. I love to practice, but I have the time to practice.”
Sue Wooster, of Australia, on how she feels about her week: “I’m pretty stoked, you know. Obviously I'm upset I lost because I wanted to win. If you said at the start of the week I would've been in the final, I would've been over the moon. I'm proud of myself. I think tonight I'll sit back and feel I did pretty good overall.”
Wooster, on what could have made the difference on Thursday: “I don't know if I had opportunities to eventually win it, but I could have put some pressure on her and I didn't. I think I just couldn't hole the putts today. I was just missing and I was probably just over-reading a bit, and nothing was working. I hit some nice shots in, I just couldn't capitalize. When I three-putted No. 13, I knocked my chances down a lot. That gave her a breather.”
Wooster, on being exempt into the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open: “Well, it was the best tournament I've ever played [in 2018] because it was an Open. That's very special to be able to play in an Open, say you played in an Open.”