NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (Sept. 13, 2014) — Tim Jackson, 55, of Germantown, Tenn., shot a 6-under-par 66 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of stroke-play qualifying in the 2014 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, being conducted at the par-72, 6,770-yard Big Canyon Country Club.
Four other golfers, including 2013 medalist Chip Lutz, 59, of Reading, Pa., finished at 4-under 68. Lutz was joined by James Gallagher, 56, of Yorktown, Va.; Bob Baker, 58, of Little Rock, Ark.; and Scott Mayne, 55, of Harrisburg, Pa.
On a day conducive to good scoring, 16 players bettered par, including 71-year-old Vinny Giles, of Richmond, Va., the 1972 U.S. Amateur champion and 2009 Senior Amateur champion, who shot his age.
Jackson seemed unfazed by the unseasonably high temperatures and elevated humidity that made conditions feel more like Florida than Southern California. The 1994 and 2001 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and member of the 1995 and 1999 USA Walker Cup Teams registered seven birdies, including three in a row from No. 7 to conclude his first nine holes.
While he is in position to earn medalist honors in his first Senior Amateur, Jackson, a USGA veteran, knows the championship cannot be won in Sunday’s final stroke-play qualifying round.
“I am going to put in a practice session [Saturday afternoon] and see how I play [on Sunday],” said Jackson, a two-time low amateur in the U.S. Senior Open and medalist in the 2009 U.S. Amateur. “If it works I am going to come out and be aggressive and see how low I can score instead of just gliding through.”
The U.S. Senior Amateur consists of 36 holes of stroke play, after which the field will be reduced to the low 64 scorers for match play beginning on Monday. Six match-play rounds will determine the champion, with the 18-hole final set for Thursday at 8:30 a.m. PDT.
The U.S. Senior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Lutz, a two-time winner of the British Seniors Amateur (2011, 2012) and Canadian Men’s Senior Amateur (2011, 2012), is still searching for his first U.S. Senior Amateur title after several close calls. He has reached the semifinals three of the past four years.
Lutz got out to a strong start on Saturday with five birdies against one bogey.
“This is all about getting to match play,” said Lutz, 59. “My first concern is to do well enough to do that. I was fortunate enough to play strongly through qualifying last year and be medalist. I am really trying to get through this piece [of the competition] and get through to match play and hope that I am seeded well.”
Defending U.S. Senior Amateur champion Doug Hanzel, of Savannah, Ga., echoed Lutz’s sentiment after shooting even-par 72.
“Today is about trying not to make a big number and trying to make it back around,” said Hanzel, who in 2012 became the only golfer in USGA history to make match play at the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur in the same year. “Part of what makes this place so great is that the golf course is so narrow. You have your hands on the steering wheel because you don’t want to let one loose and make a double or a triple.”
Big Canyon member Don Dubois, 55, of Newport Beach, Calif., finished with a 3-over-par 75, while two-time champion Kemp Richardson (2001 and 2003), 68, of nearby Laguna Niguel, carded a 69.