Senior POY: LedgeRock GC's Lutz shines in Division debut - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

Nov 29, 2010

Senior POY: LedgeRock GC’s Lutz shines in Division debut

Article available in the Winter issue of the GAP magazine.

  Upon boarding the 2010 golf vessel, Chip Lutz of LedgeRock GC immediately unraveled his map to plan for the voyage ahead.

 He glanced over potential destinations — some familiar, some uncharted. And as Lutz carefully examined those tournament territories, he experienced an epiphany.

  “I felt there was a unique opportunity to be competitive in the Senior Division,” Lutz, who turned 55 on Jan. 11, said. “I felt as though it was my time to do it if I was going to. I just got committed to making this year the best that I could. I made it a priority to do the best that I could.”

  Lutz was beyond competitive. He was sensational.

  His phenomenal play on both the local and national stage allowed Lutz to collect a hefty 822.5 points, a record total since the Senior Player of the Year Award’s inception in 1997. (Raymond Thompson of Overbrook GC held the previous mark of 740 points in 2007). The Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 2010 Senior Player of the Year distinction is Lutz’s reward for a record-setting campaign.

  “What a nice way to end the year. I’m delighted,” Lutz, of Reading, Pa., said. “It’s an honor. This is my first Player of the Year award. It’s fantastic. I feel very fortunate. It’s another feather in the cap. What a tremendous thrill.”

  Lutz finished the highly-contested race 180.9 points ahead of good friend and nearest rival Christopher Lange of Overbrook GC. He trailed Lange by 44.1 points entering October, but a powerful performance in the USGA Senior Amateur Championship at Lake Nona G&CC in Orlando, Fla. propelled Lutz to the point chart’s peak. After qualifying as the No. 5 seed, Lutz experienced an extraordinary adventure to the semifinals, where he fell to No. 1 seed Pat Tallent of Vienna, Va., 2-up.

  In January, he set sail for success in the Golfweek Senior National Championship at Doral Golf Resort’s Great White Course in Miami, Fla. Lutz carded an 8-over-par 224 total to win the Senior Division title.

  “It was five days after I turned 55,” he said. “The wind was up. Those conditions kind of suit my game. It was great to get the year started like that.”

  Lutz, who spends time in Florida each winter, also won the Society of Seniors Spring Classic in Port St. Lucie. He joined forces with Lange to take the 54th International Four-Ball Tournament Senior Division Title at The Fox Club in Palm City. Lutz grew more confident in his game as he returned north to compete in the Association’s Middle-Amateur Championship at Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Militia Hill Course. He carded a sizzling 5-under-par 67 to emerge as the Day One leader and ultimately finished tied for third.

  “I had quite a few solid ball striking rounds in Florida. That really gave me some momentum,” Lutz, a two-time Middle-Amateur Champion, said.

  That wave of momentum continued to swell as Lutz overcame feisty winds and treacherous conditions at Llanerch CC to finish second in the Warner Cup (Gross). He then navigated through national competition by earning victories in the Lupton Invitational at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn. and the Trans-Mississippi Senior at Denver CC in Denver, Colo. (His commitment to the latter prevented Lutz from participating in the Brewer Cup at Sandy Run CC). He also finished second in the National Senior Hall of Fame at Willow Creek GC in High Point, N.C.

  Lutz’s first win on the GAP Senior circuit came in the Chapman Memorial (Gross) at Burlington CC. He and Michael Domenick of Phoenixville CC carded respective 1-under-par 69s in regulation to force a playoff; Lutz drained a left-to-right breaker from the left fringe for birdie on the first playoff hole.

  “That was really special,” he said. “It was great to get my name on the senior schedule in Philadelphia.”

  However, the victory, in a sense, left Lutz at a crossroads. To further ascend in the GAP standings, Lutz needed to compete in the 40th Senior Amateur Championship at Sunnybrook GC. He wanted to also maintain his firm grip atop the Golfweek Senior Amateur rankings, but to do so, Lutz needed to continue pursuing points. He decided to forgo the Senior Amateur Championship as well as the Crump Cup at Pine Valley GC.

  “That was a very difficult decision,” Lutz said. “I really wanted to play in the Senior Amateur, but it conflicted with point events for Golfweek. I really refocused my energy on finding those events.”

  The decision paid off as Lutz finished tied for fourth in the Senior Porter Cup at Niagara Falls CC and captured the Sunnehanna Senior Invitational at Sunnehanna CC, a triumph that felt particularly meaningful. Lutz’s father Buddy won the Sunnehanna Invitational in 1947 and 1949.

  “It felt wonderful to get my name on the Sunnehanna. It was an emotional and special opportunity for me,” Lutz said.

  In between the Chapman and Sunnehanna victories were a second place finish in the R&A Seniors Open Amateur Championship at Walton Heath GC in Surrey, Eng. and a win in 59th Sr. Men’s North and South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst. As Lutz continued to glow in the national spotlight, Lange seized the Senior Amateur Championship to build up a 94.1-point advantage in the Senior Player of the Year Standings.

  The deficit didn’t faze Lutz because one more destination remained unexplored: the USGA Senior Amateur Championship. Lutz earned medalist honors in a qualifier at Niagara Frontier Country Club in Youngstown, N.Y. to trim Lange’s advantage. By gaining match play berth in the Championship proper, Lutz officially distinguished himself as the Association’s top Senior in 2010.

  “It’s pretty amazing,” Lange said of Lutz’s achievements this year. “He’s just playing great golf. When he qualified for (USGA) Senior amateur, I knew he would do well. I was obviously pulling for him because he’s a friend. He’s far and away the best senior amateur in this neck of the woods.”

  Lutz attributed his overwhelming success to vast improvement on the greens.

  “I’ve always been happy with my iron play. The biggest difference was in the putting,” Lutz said. “I went to a long putter and had a lot more success. I worked hard on it. I embraced that technique and committed to it.”

  When he reflects on his spectacular season, Lutz feels grateful for what he’s been able to achieve.

  “This has been a fun year,” he said. “I’ve met so many good people. I’ve played a lot of different style golf courses. That’s really made me a more well-rounded player. The experiences I’ve had have been outstanding.”

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