Summer of Lutz: Defending Champ Continues Winning Ways September 16, 2016 | ST. LOUIS, Mo. By Tom Mackin

Chip Lutz comes to Old Warson Country Club on quite a roll as he looks to defend his U.S. Senior Amateur title. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Senior Amateur Home

A 17-year quest to win a USGA championship finally ended last fall for Chip Lutz with an emotional victory in the U.S. Senior Amateur at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. He hasn’t stopped playing well since – particularly in playoffs.

“I kind of went through last season (2015) not as competitive in terms of finishes and got to the end of the year knowing I had one more Senior Amateur exemption,” he said. “I thought it might have been my last and best chance. I managed to get that win and it propelled me to a great year so far.”

The 61-year-old resident of Reading, Pa., started off in April by winning the Northern California Golf Association Senior Four-Ball with Randy Haag on the fifth hole of a hole-by-hole playoff at Bayonet Golf Course in Seaside, Calif. In June he won the senior division of the George C. Thomas Jr. Invitational at The Los Angeles County Club for the third time, defeating Steve Hudson in a three-hole aggregate playoff.

In August, at the The Seniors Amateur, played at Formby Golf Club in England, Lutz ended 54 holes in a tie with Brady Exber and Graham Bell, and promptly made a 25-foot birdie on the first extra hole to earn his third win in that championship, following titles in 2011 and 2012. “Somebody said to me afterward that both of my feet were off the ground when that putt went it,” said Lutz. “I was so excited.”

Just a few days later, Lutz played in his first U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. “My 33-year-old son Jordan, who lives in South Carolina, hasn’t caddied for me in years but he came up for the championship,” said Lutz. “That really provided some special interest for me to play well. I was fortunate to play great in the second round (shooting a 69), make the cut and earn the low-amateur medal (he finished in a tie for 37th as the lone amateur to  qualify for the weekend).”

That second-round score (carded while playing with defending U.S. Senior Open champion Jeff Maggert and 2015 Senior Open Championship winner Marco Dawson) got a lot of attention from some of his more well known competitors. “They really acknowledged that and I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “Guys like Tom Watson (who Lutz played nine holes with during a practice round arranged by Watson’s caddie Neil Oxman, a fellow Philadelphia-area native), Fred Funk and Billy Andrade. It was really neat.”

As Lutz was returning home from Scioto, he  received a call from the USGA asking him to represent the USA in early September in the Copa 70 Años, an event conducted by the Colombian Golf Federation in Bogota.

“I jumped all over that,” he said, although it meant withdrawing from the Canadian Senior Open, an event he won in 2011 and 2012. “Any time you get a call from the USGA to represent the USA, you make every opportunity to do it. Paul Simson and I had a great week down there (Lutz tied for 10th; he and Simson finished eighth overall as a team). I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from all over, including players from Guatemala, Paraguay and Brazil. It was a great way to expand my contacts for golf and to be an ambassador for the USGA.”

Lutz admits that being the defending U.S. Senior Amateur champion brought an added responsibility this past year. “As much as anything I wanted to be a good champion and kind of hold the torch high,” he said. “I’ve felt like I’ve done that. It’s always special to go to any USGA event, but I’m particularly pleased to go back as champion this year. Hopefully with any luck I will play well and at least make a good showing in my defense. Who knows? The goal of winning is always front and center, but if not, I won’t be disappointed. I will have been honored and pleased with my accomplishments so far.”

This week Lutz returns to Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, Mo., for the first time in 17 years. In the 1999 U.S. Mid-Amateur played at the club, he did not advance to match play. That championship marked just the second appearance on a national stage for Lutz, who had advanced to the second round of match play in the 1998 U.S. Mid-Amateur held at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio. 

“I grew up playing golf, but then work and my family came along, so I didn’t really start to think about playing outside of local events until I was in my late 40s,” Lutz said. “Maybe this is my second coming as a golfer because I didn’t really have a first one nationally. I’ve been blessed this year not only to play well, but to commit the time and stay healthy. Hopefully I have something left in the tank with a few more tournaments to go before the season is up. I’m looking forward to this week, that’s for sure.”

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com.

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