AMBLER, Pa. — An already wild opening to Chip Lutz’s golf season became even more fervent Thursday.
The LedgeRock Golf Club member carded a 1-under-par 70 to capture the 80th Francis B. Warner Cup (Gross) at Talamore Country Club (par 71, 6,626 yards). Lutz also won the event in 2012, when he set a scoring record, in relation to par, with a 6-under-par 65 at Concord Country Club. The Golf Association of Philadelphia’s four-time reigning Senior Player of the Year is off to yet another hot start.
“Last year I maybe didn’t have as many Ws, but I was obviously competitive in a lot of the events I played in,” Lutz, 59, of Reading, Pa., said. “Maybe I can put up a few more Ws this year, but even if I don’t, I’m just thrilled to be able to go along for the experiences.”
Those experiences are rapidly piling up so far in 2014. Lutz finished as runner-up in the Golfweek George L. Coleman Invitational April 26-28 at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. represented the nation’s team during the inaugural Concession Cup, a biennial competition played between teams comprised of leading male Mid-Amateurs, Senior-Amateurs and Super Senior-Amateurs from the United States and Great Britain and Ireland, May 1-3.
“For not having ever played in a Walker Cup, it was probably the closest thing I will ever experience to anything like that,” Lutz said. “It was really nice to represent the United States in an international competition. I was thrilled.”
“The last few days have been pretty tiring, so I got a good night’s sleep last night; it seemed to help.”
It sure did. Well-rested and golf-groomed, Lutz traversed Talamore’s treacherous terrain accordingly to post the day’s lone subpar score.
“It’s a tricky course,” he said. “There are a lot of hazards. There’s a lot of trouble. Good lines off the tee are really important, and that’s hard to do hole after hole. I did find some trouble, and I made my way out of it, but a couple got me.”
Consider Nos. 16 (par 4, 300 yards) and 17 (par 4, 327 yards) the aforementioned culprits. A wayward drive left Lutz with a self-diagnosed stymie in the rough. He lifted a wedge 85 yards onto the green’s back right corner and sent a downhill breaker five feet past the jar. Lutz missed the comebacker to save par. Another poor drive led to a missed green on the 17th hole. Lutz sent a chip six feet past and again failed to convert the ensuing putt.
But Lutz re-entered red with a birdie on the par 5, 491-yard 18th hole, thanks to a spectacular 5-iron from 190 yards out of slight sidehill stance.
“It was a hook lie coming into that green with the water left and everything going that way, so I took one extra club and just held on to it,” he said. “Fortunately, I was on the upslope there.” Lutz eased an eagle chip attempt to three feet.
“It was a little wiggly here and there, particularly at the end,” Lutz said. “I was a little disappointed in finishing that way, but to be able to make birdie on the final hole sort of helped me straighten myself up a little bit.”
Lutz seemed a bit off-balance at the outset following a bogey on No. 1 (par 4, 421 yards), where he missed the green right with an 8-iron. He evened out with an eight-footer for birdie on No. 2 (par 4, 371 yards). A three-putt on the par 5, 550-yard No. 6 resulted in a bogey, but Lutz, ever the resilient shotmaker, relied on towering drives and smooth set-ups for birdies on two of his next three holes. He hit an l-wedge 60 yards to 10 feet on No. 7 (par 4, 353 yards) and 70 yards to six feet on No. 9 (par 4, 320 yards).
Chester Valley Golf Club’s Ed Chylinski, Overbrook Golf Club’s Chris Lange, the division’s defending champion, and Golden Oaks Golf Club’s Byron Whitman shared runner-up honors at 73.
Fox Hill Country Club’s William Lawler told himself he had “no chance” in the Warner Cup (Gross). A 5-over-par 76 in regulation gave the West Wyoming, Pa. resident, as well as four others, a chance at Super-Senior victory.
Lawler made good on that opportunity by carding a par on No. 1 (par 4, 403 yards), the first playoff hole, to prevail. He edged White Manor Country Club’s Don Donatoni, the tournament’s defending champion and reigning Super-Senior Player of the Year, Merion Golf Club’s Carl Everett, St. Davids Golf Club’s Jay Howson, Jr. and Moorestown Field Club’s Jon Mabry.
“It feels great,” Lawler, 66, said. “Anytime you can play a GAP event against some of these terrific players is great. I always enjoy myself. I played with Don a lot last year, and he had a sensational year. You kind of learn a lot from what you see.”
In the sudden-death playoff, all participants missed both the fairway and green. Lawler did so with a 4-hybrid from 168 yards that settled in a swale to the right of the putting surface. He flipped a wedge to five feet and watched his fellow title chasers bow with bogeys. Lawler converted his par putt.
“I was in the perfect situation because everyone had missed theirs, so the worst case for me was unless I gagged it real bad, we were going to go an extra hole,” he said.
In regulation, Lawler, who started on No. 10, turned in 1 under following an eagle on No. 18 (par 5, 476 yards), where he launched a 5-wood 205 yards to 20 feet. He carded bogeys on four of his final five holes to fall into a deadlock atop the leaderboard.
“The first nine I played was a great surprise, and then I started to realize where I was,” Lawler, the 2006 GAP Senior Player of the Year, said. “I was hanging on a little too hard with the grip I think.”
Francis B. Warner of Philadelphia Cricket Club served as secretary-treasurer for the Golf Association of Philadelphia for 18 years. After his death in 1933, the Association started the Francis B. Warner Cup, an 18-hole stroke play Senior event, as an ongoing tribute in his memory. Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 150 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.