by Jennifer Hawkins, special to Golf News Net
The final of the 2021 US Senior Women's Amateur will be a blockbuster match between two titans of the amateur game.
Two-time defending champion Lara Tennant looks to join rare company on Wednesday when she takes on seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port in the championship match at The Lakewood Cub in Point Clear, Ala.
Both players made their way through back-to-back matches on Tuesday, battling through quarterfinal and semifinal matches to set up the 18-hole final.
The quarterfinal matches began and ended under drizzling skies, as the first match pitted Tennant against Sally Kreuger. An early birdie on the second hole put Tennant 2 up, but Kreuger answered with two steady pars and a bogey. A solid ninth hole by Kreuger, which has played the second most difficult hole of the tournament, gave her a 2-up lead at the turn after Tennant found the water on her approach. Tennant answered after the turn with a par to draw within one. She then closed out by going birdie-birdie-par-par from the 13th hole to close out the match, 3 and 2.
Susan Cohn jumped out to a 2-up lead over early stroke -lay leader Kathy Hartwiger. Cohn and Hartwiger swapped the lead back and forth between the seventh and 12th holes, with Cohn making par at the 15th to go 3 up headed to the par-5 16th. Both players carded a par to give Cohn the 3-and-2 victory.
Gigi Higgins and Shelly Stouffer of Nanoose Bay, British Columbia, Canada, squared off in the third quarterfinal match. Stouffer was a late entry by way of winning the Canadian Senior Women’s Amateur on Sept. 2. Stouffer he had 2017 Senior Women’s Amateur Champion Judith Kyrinis on the bag for the day. Higgins got off to an early lead on the front nine, but Stouffer closed the gap. The pair made the turn tied. Higgins went 1 up at the 10th, with Stouffer getting it back on the 14th. They remained all square headed to the 18th hole. Higgins pushed her tee shot right with only a punch out to the fairway. Stouffer, safely in the 18th fairway, drilled her approach to six feet. With Higgins leaving her third shot just short of the green, she conceded giving Stouffer the 1-up victory.
Port, a three-time US Senior Women’s Amateur champion, took on Sylvie Van Molle, the 2019 R&A Senior Amateur runner-up, in the fourth and final match of the quarterfinal round. Birdies were exchanged early with the match all square after nine holes. Port then ran away, firing off three consecutive birdies. Port’s par on the par-5 16th gave the match to Port, 4 and 2.
Tennant and Cohn met for the first semifinal match of the afternoon. Tennant went up early, going 3 up through seven holes. Filed under “winning requires luck,” Tennant’s approach to the par-5 ninth skipped across the water fronting the green and made its way to the greenside fringe below the hole -- with Cohn safely on in two. A solid two putt by Cohn got her one back, being just 2 down after nine holes. A birdie on the 10th for Tennant grabbed one back but was immediately returned on the 11th with Cohn making par. Cohn’s par on the 13th left her just one down until the 18th hole, but Tennant’s birdie on the 18th sealed the match, sending her to her third straight championship match.
Port and Stouffer met for the second semifinal of the afternoon. Port took the lead after an eagle 2 on the 347-yard par-4 sixth, but the pair made the turn tied as Stouffer won the seventh. Back and forth holes on the back nine brought the pair to the 18th hole with the match tied and a spot in the final on the line. Port’s approach landed 12 feet from the pin, with Stouffer’s approach finding the front greenside bunker. Stouffer managed to get out to six feet, but Port drained her putt for birdie for the 1 up win on the 18th hole.
What's at stake
For Tennant, she can join the likes of Carole Semple Thompson, Juli Inkster and Tiger Woods as winners of three consecutive USGA amateur championships. Standing in her way is Port, who partnered with Tennant in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and has won seven USGA titles.
The championship match will tee off at 7:15 a.m., with the decision by the USGA to get the match in prior to poor weather conditions moving in the area.