(PORTLAND, Ore.) – After making a 65-foot par putt on the second playoff hole to clinch the 64th and final match-play spot Sunday night, Courtney Myhrum defeated co-medalist Lara Tennant, a longtime member at host site Waverley Country Club, 1 up, in the first round of match play in the 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship. Hosting its seventh USGA championship, Waverley is set up at 5,836 yards and a par of 72.
Tennant, who for the third day in a row had a large gallery following her, twice lost a 1-up lead on the outward nine and found herself 1 down for the first time in the match after bogeying the seventh hole. The match was squared on the par-3 ninth when Myhrum, of Pittsburgh, Pa., missed her par putt. Myhrum then took the largest lead of the match, going 2 up on the 13th hole, before Tennant, 50, rallied with birdies on holes 15 and 16 to square the match heading into the back-to-back par-5 closing stretch.
After Myhrum missed a 20-foot birdie by inches on No. 18, Tennant rolled her 6-foot downhill breaker for par past the hole, which clinched the victory for Myhrum, who is vice-chair of the USGA Women’s Committee and has volunteered at six USGA championships this year.
“I played OK today and would describe a few holes as badly played holes, but then I played some nice holes,” said Tennant, a mother of five ranging in age from 16 to 21 whose husband grew up in a house on Waverley’s 12th hole. “I played a ladies’ day kind of golf, not USGA competitive golf. I give all the credit to my opponent though. She got up and down from some places I have never seen people get up and down from, so I give her a lot of credit for being tough and staying in the game.”
On the other side of the bracket, Helene Chartrand, who finished co-medalist with Tennant, won the first four holes and never trailed in her 6-and-5 win over Nanette Seman.
“Nannette had a rough time starting, so it’s tough to come back from there,” said Chartrand, 61, who won the 2014 Canadian Senior Women’s Amateur and finished runner-up in 2016. “If I’ve learned one thing in golf, it’s that you can never sit on a lead. You never want to let your competitor come back. That’s what I tried to do with some good shots where I forced her to make pars, and unfortunately for her, she missed putts.”
Chartrand, of Canada, has played in six consecutive U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs and made a quarterfinals appearance in 2014, losing 1 down to champion Joan Higgins. She will be joined by five other Canadian players in the Round of 32, including Mary Ann Hayward, the 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, and Judith Kyrinis, the 2014 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up. Hayward defeated M.K. Thanos-Zordani, 4 and 2, and Kyrinis ousted Jen Holland, 6 and 4, in the first round.
“These greens remind me of home – a lot of undulations and up-and-down reads,” said Kyrinis. “So, I get them and feel really comfortable on them. I sunk some fairly lengthy putts today. Anytime you birdie No. 3, that’s a real bonus.”
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, open to female amateurs age 50 and older with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 18.4, consists of 36 holes of stroke play, with the low 64 players advancing to match play. The championship, scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Defending champion Ellen Port, 55, of St. Louis, Mo., never trailed in defeating Leeann Lewis, 2 and 1, to advance to the Round of 32 for the sixth consecutive year. Lewis, however, didn’t make it easy and chipped in from 30 yards on the par-3 16th hole to cut Port’s lead to 1 up.
“It was a classic match, lots of really good golf on both sides,” said Port, one of the most decorated amateur players in USGA history with four U.S. Mid-Amateur and three U.S. Senior Amateur titles. “This is a great match-play course, the greens are very complex, and I have not quite figured it out yet. She played great, and I’m just really proud that I didn’t get frustrated when things didn’t go my way, especially after 16. I could have lost my cool, but I kept it together.”
Another USGA champion headed to the second round of match play is Martha Leach, 55, of Hebron, Ky., who defeated Beatriz Arenas, of Guatemala, in 21 holes. Arenas, who at 69 was the oldest remaining player in the field, battled back from a 2-down deficit by winning holes 16 and 17 to square the match.
“Beatriz didn’t putt well today, and I was fortunate on a lot of holes where she didn’t,” said Leach, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion. “I didn’t play great. I hit a lot of good shots, but misclubbed myself a lot. It was a win, it was not pretty, but it’s a W.”
Leach is the younger sister of three-time U.S. Women’s Open and three-time U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Hollis Stacy. As a former U.S. Women’s Open champion, Stacy is exempt to play in next year’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club, and Leach would love to join her. Both the champion and runner-up in this year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur will earn an exemption into the inaugural championship.
“Hollis keeps telling me, ‘Martha, you have to play, and it would be a lot easier if you win [this event],’” said Leach, who introduced her sister at her World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “She knows how hard it is to win a USGA championship, so I know she’s just joking, but it would be really nice for us to compete in the first one together.”
Eight USGA champions advanced to the Round of 32: Carolyn Creekmore (2004 Senior Women’s Amateur); Mina Hardin (2010 Senior Women’s Amateur); Hayward (2005 Women’s Mid-Amateur); Sherry Herman (2009 Senior Women’s Amateur); Diane Lang (2005, 2006, 2008 Senior Women’s Amateur); Leach (2009 Women’s Mid-Amateur), Port (1995, 1996, 2000, 2011 Women’s Mid-Amateur; 2012, 2013, 2016 Senior Women’s Amateur); and Corey Weworski (2004 Women’s Mid-Amateur).
Last year’s runner up, Andrea Kraus, 56, of Baltimore, Md., reached the Round of 32, advancing through a 7-for-6 playoff on Sunday and then rallying late for a 1-up victory over No. 6 seed Mary Jane Hiestand on Monday.
In addition to Leach’s victory, two more matches went to extra holes. Evelyn Orley, who has 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion Liselotte Neumann on her bag, defeated Tina Barker in 19 holes, and Patricia Cornett posted the comeback of the day, winning four straight holes to edge Akemi Nakata Khaiat in 19 holes.
Susan Hartwell’s 8-and-6 victory over Virginia State Amateur champion Mimi Hoffman ties the second-largest margin of defeat in championship history. Hartwell, 56, of Arvada, Colo., is playing in her second USGA championship. She missed the cut in the 2016 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.