It never gets old for Lara Tennant. Certainly not the winning, which includes three U.S Senior Women’s Amateur titles in 2018, 2019 and 2021, nor earning co-medalist honors for this championship, which she did in 2017 and 2021.
But on Sunday at Troon Country Club, the Portland, Ore., resident earned a new honor: solo medalist.
“I had no thoughts on being medalist today,” said Tennant. “I was just trying to learn the golf course and just hit good shots.” She accomplished both of those goals, finishing with birdies on two of her last holes.
“On the seventh, it was a tough pin placement, tough hole,” she said. “I just hit a really good tee shot and made a good putt, about a 25-footer. That was nice because it was one of the first putts I made today. I missed some other birdie putts that sometimes I make more often. Then I hit a great shot on nine so it was a lot easier making a two-foot putt there for birdie.”
While pleased with her scores, Tennant quickly shifted her focus to match play, which begins on Monday.
“You know, really, the goal in a match play tournament is just to make the cut,” she said. “But it’s always nice to be medalist.”
That honor however, plus her impressive playing record in the championship, will be the farthest things from her mind on Monday. “I wipe that out totally and all I’m thinking about is hitting a good tee shot out on No. 1,” she said. “That’s the only thing I can control.”
Tennant’s stroke play total of 2-over-par 146 bested a familiar face by three strokes: fellow three-time U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur champion Ellen Port, of St. Louis, Mo. The two were partners in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, and Tennant edged Port, 2 and 1, later that year in the final of the Senior Women’s Amateur.
Coming into the second round of stroke play, Port’s goal was to improve on her first round 77 and get in the top-5 going into match play. She did just that by shaving off five strokes for an even-par 72 to finish the stroke play portion of the championship in second place.
“It feels great because it’s been a long time coming,” said Port. “I struggled. I hesitate to say the last 10 years because people will say ‘Yeah right, Ellen.’ But everybody knows their golf game and I’ve had to fight to get my swing better and my putting better.”
Defending champion Shelly Stouffer of Canada is also well-positioned heading into match play, ending in a tie for third place with Tara Joy-Connelly at 6-over.
“My game feels good right now,” said Stouffer. “I’m hitting the ball pretty well and putting well. I don’t think I had any three-putts today, which was nice because the greens are tricky here. So, I’m really happy with the way I’m playing. Everything is good.”
Joy-Connelly, of Middleborough, Mass., continues to impress in her first U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, overcoming a rough start to the second round, which for her began on the 10th hole.
“I was a little indecisive on the first tee, and I decided to play it safe and messed it up,” she said. “So, took a triple right out of the gate. It was a lot to settle down from then, so, I’m happy with the way I came around, but it was a tough start.”
A playoff with seven players, including past Senior Women’s Amateur champions Diane Lang and Karen Garcia, competing for two spots will begin at 7:15 a.m. MST on the par-4 10th hole. The Round of 64 will begin immediately thereafter.
“I don’t really have that type of superstition. I probably have a lot of other superstitions, but that’s definitely not one of them.” – Lara Tennant on being concerned that only two medalists in the championship, including herself, have gone on to win the championship since match play began in 1997.
“This golf course is tough. It’s relentless. We were talking about it… I really want to play with blinders on. I don’t want to look right or left because I want to look center where I want to hit it. If you’re too far right or too far left, you’re in the gunch. And then once you get on the greens, it’s a whole other story.” – Ellen Port on the challenges offered by the course at Troon Country Club.
“It’s a totally different game. I like match play, I seem to do quite well at it. So, I feel like it’s really anybody’s game, just who shows up to the golf course. Hopefully my A-game shows up every day, and if I don’t need it and I can still win that’s great.” – Defending champion Shelly Stouffer on the match play format.
“Oh yeah, one match at a time. Just, you know, you have to play like your opponent is going to do everything right. So, you don’t get flustered and move on from there.” – Tara Joy-Connelly on her mindset heading into the Round of 64.
Tom Mackin is an Arizona-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.