U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Epic Final at The Lakewood Club: Tennant Vs. Port
September 14, 2021 | Clear Point, Ala.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Two-time defending champion Lara Tennant, of Portland, Ore., and three-time champion Ellen Port, of St. Louis, Mo., gritted their way through two matches on a soggy Tuesday at The Lakewood Club, both of them converting birdie putts on the 18th hole to seal their spots in Wednesday’s 18-hole final of the 59th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.
Tennant, the 2018 and 2019 champion (the 2020 championship was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic), shared the qualifying medal, and as the No. 1 seed, extended her winning streak in this championship to 17 with her afternoon semifinal victory over No. 4 Susan Cohn, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Tennant, 55, held a 3-up advantage after 10 holes, but Cohn, 58, the runner-up to Port in this championship in 2013, won holes 11 and 13. She could not dent the one-hole deficit, though, and Tennant clinched her 2-up win with a closing birdie.
Port, who partnered with Tennant in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, has won seven USGA titles: four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs and three U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs (2012, 2013 and 2016). She had a back-and-forth semifinal battle with Shelly Stouffer, of Canada, who was competing in her first U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur thanks to an exemption earned by winning the Canadian Women’s Senior Championship two weeks ago.
“I just came in knowing I was going to have tough matches,” said Port, the No. 3 seed, who improved her all-time record in this event to 30-5. “I think each year the field gets stronger. I knew I was going to have to play tough matches all the way to the finals. That’s why I’m amazed I even won one of these.”
Three times in their semifinal, Stouffer took a 1-up lead, but Port drew even every time. Stouffer returned the favor late in the match, making a birdie on No. 15 after she had lost the previous hole to Port’s par. On No. 18, Stouffer hit her approach into a bunker, and Port knocked hers to 8 feet. Stouffer gave herself a chance at an up-and-down, but Port buried the birdie putt to end it.
Three of the four morning quarterfinal matches ended on the 16th green. Tennant trailed No. 8 seed Sally Krueger, of San Francisco, Calif., by one hole through 12, but she reeled off four straight hole wins with back-to-back birdies and consecutive pars for a 3-and-2 win. Cohn took a quick 2-up lead on No. 5 seed Kathy Hartwiger, of Birmingham, Ala., and retained at least that margin throughout in completing a 3-and-2 win. Similar to Tennant, Port flipped a back-and-forth match against Sylive Von Molle, of Belgium, with four straight wins on Nos. 9-12 on the way to a 4-and-2 verdict.
On Wednesday, Tennant will seek to win her 18th consecutive match in this championship – she last lost in the Round of 64 in 2017, when she was medalist and No. 1 seed on her home course, Waverley Country Club. Port will attempt to win her eighth USGA title, which would put her in esteemed company with Jack Nicklaus and JoAnne Carner. Port would tie Carner for most USGA titles all-time among women. She has a 7-1 record in her previous finals.
“Ellen is a legend, she’s great,” said Tennant. “We were U.S. Four-Ball partners, so we know each other’s games very, very well. We’re dear friends, and she’s a great competitor. We’re going to have a fabulous match tomorrow.”
The 18-hole championship final will be contested on Wednesday, starting at 7:15 a.m. CDT. The starting time for the match was moved up one hour from its original time due to the expected impact of Tropical Storm Nicholas.
- Earlier Tuesday morning, Stouffer completed her 3-and-1 victory over No. 7 seed Patricia Ehrhart, of Birmingham, Ala., and Van Molle outlasted Tracy Welch in 22 holes. Van Molle’s victory is the longest quarterfinal match in U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur history, eclipsing the 21-hole victory by Andrea Kraus over Judith Kyrinis in 2016 at Wellesley (Mass.) Country Club. On Monday, Ehrhart prevailed in the longest match in the 24 editions of the championship that have been conducted at match play (since 1997), when she won on the eighth extra hole (No. 26) over Jayne Pardus.
- The champion will receive custody of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Trophy for one year, as well as a gold medal and a 10-year exemption into this championship. She will also earn a two-year exemption into the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship and an exemption into the 2021 and 2022 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs – this year’s Women’s Mid-Am is scheduled for Sept. 25-30 at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton, S.C. – and the 2022 and 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateurs.
- The runner-up will receive a silver medal and a three-year exemption into this championship as well as an exemption into the 2021 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open and 2022 U.S. Women's Amateur. The semifinalists earn exemptions into the next two U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs, which will be played at Anchorage (Alaska) Golf Course (July 30-Aug. 4, 2022) and Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2023).
- Match-play seeds Nos. 1-5 and No. 8 all advanced to the quarterfinal round on Tuesday, and three of the top four made the semifinals, with No. 2 Gigi Higgins losing on the 18th hole to Stouffer. Dating to at least 2006, the top five seeds had never advanced so far as a group. The highest combined seeds in the past 15 championships was in 2016, when seed Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 reached the quarterfinals at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif. (Port won her third title as the No. 3 seed). In 2010, Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 got to the quarterfinal round at Fiddlesticks Country Club in Fort Myers, Fla., where No. 6 seed Mina Hardin prevailed.
- Judith Kyrinis, the 2017 champion, caddied for fellow Canadian Shelly Stouffer in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds after she lost to Lara Tennant in 19 holes in the Round of 32. Sherry Herman, the 2009 champion, caddied for Susan Cohn on Monday and Tuesday after she withdrew from stroke play.
“Andy [her husband and caddie] just kept telling me, stay patient, stay positive, because I can kind of get down on myself a little bit. I think everybody out here had trouble putting. You just had to stay positive and persevere.” – Ellen Port, on making her birdie putt to close out Shelly Stouffer on No. 18 after missing good chances on Nos. 16 and 17
“I know we both want to play well. We’re going to have our ups and downs. We know that. I will be thrilled if it’s me who wins, and I’ll be thrilled if it’s her. We just hope to play good golf, play some quality shots and make it fun for the people that have been out here watching.” – Port, on Wednesday’s final match
“It was rough. I hit some great shots, and then I hit a couple of shots that were uncharacteristic of my game. I’d like to blame it on the weather, so why not. But otherwise, I made some great putts, and a win is a win.” – Lara Tennant, on the drizzly conditions of Tuesday’s semifinal match
“I come to these international tournaments to meet new people, along with seeing friends from the U.S. and from Toronto where I lived before.” – Sylvie Van Molle, 57, of Belgium, who lost to Ellen Port in the quarterfinals in her first USGA championship, after qualifying through her Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking
“After the 22 holes, I had no more fuel for the next one [vs. Ellen Port in the quarterfinals]. This has been 12 days of golf in a row for me, after playing in the European Team Championship in Romania last week. Playing for a team is mentally exhausting, a lot of emotions. Next year, I will be fresher for this event.” – Van Molle, who defeated Tracy Welch in 22 holes to reach the quarterfinals, which earns her an exemption for 2022
“That happened today? Yes, it did – I had to hit just one shot this morning. I hit a tee shot on 17 and then my opponent didn’t play that hole very well, and she gave me my putt.” – Shelly Stouffer, who won her Round-of-16 match early Tuesday morning on No. 17 when Patricia Ehrhart conceded the hole
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Social Scene
The #USSeniorWomensAm doesn't get the most attention but tomorrow's final deserves some.— Julia Pine (@juliapine) September 14, 2021
Lara Tennant, going for a three-peat
Ellen Port, going for record-tying 8th @USGA title pic.twitter.com/7zIussCFEP
Cape Coral’s Gigi Higgins loses last hole to Canada’s Shelly Stouffer in quarterfinals of #USSeniorWomensAm today. Stouffer wins 1 up— Greg Hardwig (@NDN_GHardwig) September 14, 2021
And then there were two...@par4port made birdie on the last to win 1🆙 over Shelly Stouffer in this afternoon's Semifinals match— Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association (@MetAmateurGA) September 14, 2021
She'll play two-time defending champion Lara Tennant in the Finals tomorrow 🍿#USSeniorWomensAm pic.twitter.com/DDcqQ6yd3o