Two-time defending champion Lara Tennant and three-time champion Ellen Port 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 cancelled 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 semi final victory over No.4 Susan Cohn.
Tennant 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 battle with Shelly Stouffer, 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 semi final, Stouffer took a 1-up lead, but Port drew even every time. Stouffer returned the favour 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 eight 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 by one hole through 12, but she reeled off four straight hole wins with back-to-back birdies and consecutive pars for a 3&2 win.
Cohn took a quick 2-up lead on No.5 seed Kathy Hartwiger and retained at least that margin throughout in completing a 3&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&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 medallist 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.”