PORTRUSH, Ireland (Aug. 5, 2011) -- American Chip Lutz went one better than last year’s runner-up finish to claim the Seniors Open Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush where he reeled-in playing partner Frank Ford III and held off the challenge of Arthur Pierse in a dramatic final round.
Lutz signed for a second successive 71 for a three round winning aggregate of two-under 214. The 56-year-old’s total was good enough to win by one stroke from Irish international Pierse, who carded a 70 to come up just short. The 2007 champion gave the home crowds plenty to cheer about as he attempted to chase down the leading American pair on a benign afternoon on the Antrim coast.
For Ford it was a day of disappointment as the 59-year-old, who had led over the first two days, relinquished a four shot lead and signed for a final round 77 to eventually finish third on level par.
The American contingent who competed in Portrush this week were all too aware of Lutz’s battling qualities. This time he got his just rewards and claimed the prestigious title.
“It’s just so emotional, I’m overwhelmed to have won,” said Lutz immediately after the presentation. “This is my first national championship and it feels great to have been able to finish it off after being runner-up to Paul (Simson) at Walton Heath last year."
The plus four handicapper, who plays out of LedgeRock Golf Club in Pennsylvania, got off to the best possible start after making an eagle three at the par five second before following up with a birdie at the next to put immediate pressure on Ford, who at the same time opened with three straight bogeys.
“I was just trying to stay patient out there. I had a little bit of a lead to overcome but I started quickly. As I jumped off to a great start, Frank struggled to get going.
“In the end I was delighted to have been able to maintain my composure before enjoying the easiest of short tap-ins on the final green to win,” added Lutz, who carded an eagle and three birdies against four bogeys.
Despite Ford’s early woes he still had a long birdie putt from the front of the green at 18 to force a play-off. He raced it passed and went on to miss the eight-footer back which cost him a share of second. “What can I say it just didn’t happen, but that’s golf; I’ve had a great week,” said Ford.
For Pierse there was also a case of what might have been. The battling Tipperary golfer holed an outrageous par putt from just off the front of the green at 18 after finding the cross bunkers with his drive. It meant he at least asked the question and Lutz had to make par to win. For Pierse he said the slow start to the week cost him.
“I was five-over for the front nine on the opening day, that was always going to leave me with an uphill battle,” said Pierse, who won his 2007 title at Nairn Golf Club in Scotland. “I played great for most of the time but it just wasn’t enough. It’s still been a good week.”
The biggest mover on the final day came from American Patrick Tallent, who fired the low round of the week 67 to race up the leaderboard and claim fourth spot. The 57-year-old carded seven birdies with just two dropped shots at the seventh and 12th.
“I just love it over here, the golf played on these links courses is nothing like what we play week-in, week-out in America,” said Tallent, who is a member at The Congressional where Rory McIlroy won the US Open in June. “It felt good to come over here, put on some cashmere, and go out and play golf on a wonderful links.”
American Vinny Gilles closed with a 77 for a nine-over 229 aggregate to win the over-65 category by four shots.
"Such a wonderful course and I simply enjoyed being out there playing," said the 68-year-old, who was US Walker Cup captain in 1993. "I wish I wasn’t as old because I’d like to play another one, so long as I’m not pushing up daisies. It has been a wonderful week and we got a great break with the weather."
Garth McGimpsey, one of the home favourites, finished a creditable tied sixth on four-over after a 73. He was two behind England’s Chris Reynolds (71) in fifth and alongside American Brady Exber (74).
“I just didn’t get off to the fast start I needed to get into the mix but it was still a good week,” said McGimpsey, the 2003 and 2005 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup captain.
Defending champion and three-time winner Simson closed with a 72 to be tied 24th on 13-over.