by Jennifer Hawkins, special to Golf News Net
History was made as a worthy champion was crowned at the 59th US Senior Women’s Amateur Championship in Point Clear, Ala.
Lara Tennant won her third-consecutive US Senior Women’s Amateur Championship by a 2-and-1 margin over past Senior Amateur winner and seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port in the 18-hole final. The championship match was delayed a day due to excessive rain from Tropical Storm Nicholas. Both ladies showed up to play on Thursday under sunny skies after host The Lakewood Club received over 5 inches of rain within 24 hours.
The Senior Women’s Amateur format is similar to other USGA Amateur Championships: two rounds of stroke play followed by a day of match play for the 64 players who advance from stroke play, followed by two grueling days of back to back rounds with a championship on the sixth day. For the 59th Senior Women’s Amateur, however, the tournament stretched to a taxing seventh day.
Both players were attempting to accomplish unique, notable USGA distinctions. Tennant was playing for her third USGA championship in a row. The only other players in history to win three championships in a row were Tiger Woods, Carol Semple Thompson, Glenna Vare, Juli Inkster and Hollis Stacy. Port was playing to tie Jack Nicklaus and Joanne Carner with eight total USGA championships.
Two holes were played on Wednesday prior to the match being suspended due to the heavy rain. Tennant was 1 up when play was suspended. As play resumed Thursday morning, Port got back to level at the third, but Tennant stormed back notching hole wins at the shortened fourth hole (converted to a par 3 due to standing water) and the fifth. Port won the seventh hole to cut the gap to a hole heading to the par-4 ninth.
The ninth has been challenging this week, playing to a 4.992 average. For Tennant in particular, the ninth was vexing. In seven tries before the final (two qualifying rounds and five matches), she was 5 over on the hole. The bad run continued in the title match, as Tennant made a double bogey to Port’s par. The pair made the turn tied, and Tennant thrilled never to see that hole again.
Tennant has spent the last week shutting down her opponents on the back nine of the Lakewood Club, and the final proved to be no exception. Tennant made par at the 12th to Port’s bogey and won again with par at the 14th to Port’s double bogey to take a 2-up edge. Tennant then matched Port with bogey, par, par to win the championship on the par-3 17th.
Tennant becomes only the sixth person to three-peat a USGA Championship. The others being Tiger Woods (‘91-’93 Junior Amateur and ‘94-’96 US Amateur), Carol Semple Thompson (‘99-’02 US Senior Women’s Amateur), Glenna Vare (‘28-’30 US Women’s Amateur), Hollis Stacy (‘69-’71 US Girls Junior Amateur) and Juli Inkster (‘80-’82 US Women’s Amateur).
The 60th USGA Senior Women’s Amateur will be held at the Anchorage Golf Club in Anchorage, Alaska. It has been the desire of the USGA to hold an event in every state in the country. Holding the Senior Women’s Amateur in Alaska will complete the map.