PAOLI, Penn. (May 25, 2016) –It’s a contrast in perspectives for the pair sitting atop the 33rd Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf leaderboard. Chip Lutz is a multi-time Golf Association of Philadelphia Major winner, a national champion and a Senior hall of famer. He’s a hunted name no matter the tournament stop. Matthew Finger, on the other hand, has emerged the last few years as a frequent force in the tri-state area golfing arena. Seemingly always knocking, Finger remains in search of that door-opening score.
Those two enter Thursday’s second and final round as co-leaders after each posted 2-under-par 69s on Wednesday at Waynesborough Country Club. They’ll begin their last 18 holes, with Dan Bernard of Aronimink Golf Club (1 under), at 11:20 a.m.
A warm day coupled with a pesky breeze and a demanding layout created a compact day one.
The storyline is legacy versus validity for the two co-leaders.
“It’s good to be a contender at my age,” said Lutz, 61, of Reading, Pa. “I’m happy to be close coming into the final day. I always hope I’m close on the last nine holes. If I get off to a reasonably good start, stay close and have nine to play, I like my chances. Anything can happen and as long as you have that opportunity that’s what makes it exciting.”
Lutz’s Mid.-Am. track record is head-shaking. He is a dual winner, taking titles in 1998 and 2007, and in the last eight Middle-Amateur Championships in which he’s competed (he didn’t participate in 2013 or 2015), the LedgeRock Golf Club member has finished no worse than fifth.
A victory tomorrow would make Lutz, the reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion, the oldest Mid.-Am. winner in history. In addition to his Middle-Amateur titles, Lutz has won the Association’s Junior, Amateur and Senior championships.
Finger, of DuPont Country Club, recorded his best Mid.-Am. performance in 2014 when he closed with a 5-under 66 at Gulph Mills Golf Club to shoot up the leaderboard and place fifth. In 2015, he fell in the final match for the New Jersey State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship.
“I’ve not led too many tournaments in GAP; it’ll be a little different,” said Finger, 38, of Woolwich Township, N.J. “There will be a little bit more attention. Spectators, scoreboards, GAP officials. I’ve always been good at staying with the game plan and not get ahead of myself.”
Finger and Lutz reached red figures in similar style, putting a premium on fairways and greens. A necessity with Waynesborough’s ruthless rough.
Lutz turned his front-side in 1-under 34 behind three birdies and two bogeys. He registered eight pars and a birdie on the back, his lone red digit coming on No. 14 (par 3, 175 yards). He ripped a 7-iron to 15 feet right of the hole and drained the putt.
Finger, who started on the back nine, the more difficult side of the two, turned in an impressive 3-under 33. He birdied four holes including three of the last four. The highlight coming on No. 17 (par 3, 212 yards) when he ripped a 4-iron to six feet and made the birdie putt.
The course stats for the day had the back nine (40.5 average) playing two strokes higher than the front side (38.1).
On Finger’s outward trek, he bogeyed two of the first four holes, but birdied No. 7 (par 5, 546 yards) with a 12-foot putt up the hill. He parred his final two holes for a 69.
“I was in total control of the driver today,” said Finger, who recently competed in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club. He and partner Michael Korcuba advanced to match play but fell in the first round. “Playing 90 holes at Winged Foot with difficult conditions and fast greens really prepared me well for this course. Waynesborough is a difficult golf course. I find myself playing better on difficult golf courses. I don’t hit it very long but I hit it pretty straight. You have to find the fairways here, avoid the fairway bunkers and keep it out in front of you.”
Defending champion Scott McNeil of Bala Golf Club posted an opening-round 78 and is in a tie for 57th.
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