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Tennant Treasures Week With Her Father, 78, on the Bag October 10, 2018 | Vero Beach, Fla. By Lisa D. Mickey

Lara Tennant earned a spot in Thursday's final thanks to a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of her semifinal match. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Home

Golf has been a family activity for as long as Lara Tennant can remember.

So when she drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of Wednesday’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship semifinal match, the look on her father’s face was worth even more than the spot she had just earned in Thursday’s championship final.

That birdie putt had broken the final tie of the match and given Tennant a 1-up victory over Terrill Samuel, of Canada, to move into her first Senior Women’s Amateur final in her second championship start. Her father, George Mack, who is serving as her caddie this week, was still smiling as he turned in his caddie bib.

“How can you beat this?” said Mack, 78, of Portland, Ore. “Regardless of what happens tomorrow, it doesn’t matter because we’ve had a great time.”

Mack’s family’s love of golf started at Waverley Country Club in Portland, where he grew up playing. His five children, including Lara, caddied for their dad at his amateur tournaments and all became proficient amateur players.

“That’s how my kids really got into golf,” added Mack, a former scratch player who now carries a Handicap Index of 6. “I got them started, but they had teachers. I had five kids who played college golf – with four girls on scholarship.”

Both Lara and her sister, Renee Baumgartner, were standout players – Lara at the University of Arizona, and Renee at the University of Southern California, where she later coached before spending 17 years as the head women’s golf coach at the University of Oregon.

Lara also coached at Oregon and Renee moved into administration. Renee is now the director of athletics at Santa Clara University.

Mack is returning a long-ago favor to his daughter this week at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club.

All week as Tennant has marched through the match-play bracket, the team effort of the father-daughter duo has been reminiscent of their days when the father was playing and the daughter was confirming his decisions as caddie.

“It’s been such a blessing to have him here and it’s amazing to share this experience with my dad,” said Tennant, 51, also of Portland.

As one of five kids growing up, Tennant thrived in a busy household with lots of noise and commotion. After she married, she had five children of her own, who are now ages 17 to 23 – with twins Caroline and Grace, the two youngest, now high school seniors.

“They are the lights of my life,” said Tennant. “I love having a busy household. I love chaos. I love watching siblings grow up together and I just love seeing all the love it produces. It’s always been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.”

There was not, however, a lot of time for Tennant to play golf. As she began playing more competitive golf in her 40s, she would prepare for tournaments only in the week prior to the event. And she would only compete for four months of the year.

As she neared age 50, Tennant set her sights on entering senior events, both in her home state and USGA championships.

“My golf life in my 40s did not have a whole lot of golf and included two rotator-cuff surgeries,” she said. “I still played and kept in the game a little bit, but my goal was when I turned 50, to be physically, mentally and competitively ready to go see what I could do in senior golf.”

In her first year of senior golf last year, Tennant won both the Oregon Senior Women’s Amateur and Oregon Women’s Mid-Amateur championships. She defended both titles this year.

She also was the medalist in her first U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, held on her home course at Waverley, and she qualified for this year’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club.

While she missed the cut at the Senior Women’s Open with her son, Matthew, 19, serving as caddie, Tennant laced a 6-iron 163 yards for an ace on the seventh hole to create a lasting memory for the 10 family members who made up her gallery.

“It was a special week for everybody and such a special week for me to participate,” she said. “The hole-in-one made the whole day more fun for my family.”

Tennant was runner-up in the California Senior Women’s Amateur this year. She also tied for fourth in the 2018 North & South Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at Pinehurst in August, behind winner Sue Wooster, whom she will face in Thursday’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur final. The 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion, Judith Kyrinis, and three-time champion Ellen Port finished second and third, respectively, at that event.

“She’s had a great two years as a senior amateur,” said her dad. “She’s learned to play at this level.”

Tennant is still meeting players in her age group and has reconnected with some players she met while playing college golf. As one of the younger players on the senior level, she knows there is plenty of experienced competition from around the world wherever she competes.

“We’re all competitive and we all like to win,” she said. “But it’s such a great group of women who appreciate good golf.”

With her youngest children now nearing college age, Tennant has been able to find more time to work on her game. And as she has ramped up her practice time and entered more senior competitions, she has also discovered a new spark that has surprised her.

“I have to say that senior golf has been so much fun to play, regardless of how I have performed,” Tennant said. “It’s been a really good goal for me and it has renewed a passion for me in golf that has coincided with me turning 50.”

Tennant’s children have been able to share in their mother’s renewed enthusiasm for the game. All five of her kids have played high school golf and the family plays together whenever possible – usually with her three daughters playing together, her two sons together, and Tennant and her husband.

Just as she and her siblings all caddied for their dad when they were growing up, all of her children have caddied for her. And while none of her kids are in Florida this week for the Senior Women’s Amateur, their phone texts of support have been buzzing back and forth among the family as she moves into Thursday’s championship final.

“I think teaching your children how to be a good winner and a good loser is extremely important,” said Tennant.

“Last year when I lost in the first round of match play at this championship, my kids were so upset,” she added. “But I thought to myself, this is a great teaching moment. I can teach them that I worked really hard. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but if you do your best, that’s all you can do. You just keep moving forward.”

And that’s what Tennant plans to do on Thursday when she has a chance to not only play for the championship, but to also show her children how to play with renewed joy.

Another year of experience in competitive golf as a senior makes a difference,” she said. “Everybody loves to do well in whatever they do, but I really don’t judge my successes that way. Golf is what I do, but it doesn’t define me.”

Tennant sees Thursday’s championship match as “another great day here in Orchid Island” and her goal is to simply enjoy playing competitive golf again.

Most of all, she has the opportunity to share her championship pursuit with the man who taught her how to love the game.

“After I made that putt to win my match, my dad just kind of raised his arms,” said Tennant. “He was so surprised and happy. We’re having a great time together, so this is what I will always remember.”

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has appeared frequently on USGA digital channels.

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