Clauson, Fieger rise to the top on hot day at Philly Senior
Chris Fieger (GAP photo)
Chris Fieger (GAP photo)

CINNAMINSON, N.J. (Sept. 4, 2018) — A pair of Christophers put their names atop the 48th Senior Amateur Championship leaderboard Tuesday on a sweltering day at Riverton Country Club.

Christopher Clauson, runner-up in the rain-shortened event a year ago, and Christopher Fieger, Sr., a Senior Division rookie, carded rounds of 3-under 68 to share the tournament’s 18-hole lead. Joseph Russo is a shot back after a 2-under 69.

“It’s the first time I’ve played well all year. It felt like the first time I’ve had control of my golf ball,” said Clauson, a 62-year-old from Philadelphia, Pa.

The co-leaders had 11 birdies and an eagle between them.

The par 5, 476-yard 17th hole served as a launchpad for both. Clauson, who started on the back nine, stood at 2 over before powering a 3-wood greenside left. He then knocked a delicate chip to 6 feet for birdie — the first of three straight conversions. On No. 18 (par 4, 354 yards), Clauson lifted a wedge 106 yards to 25 feet and buried the uphill putt. A 90-yard wedge to 10 feet translated into a 3 on the next hole (par 4, 358 yards), too.

Fieger, who started on the front, slammed a 5-iron 190 yards to 12 feet on No. 17. He checked the line from both sides, addressed his golf ball and issued a fist pump once the eagle roll rattled in the bottom of the cup. The moment juxtaposed an aforementioned shaky start (bogey-bogey): ball in a divot on No. 1, three-putt on No. 2 (par 4, 383 yards).

A three-putt bogey on No. 15 (par 4, 414 yards) rounded out the rare Fieger miscues on this day. He carded four birdies in between. On No. 5 (par 4, 357 yards), Fieger, who won the Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association’s Philadelphia Open Amateur earlier this season, smacked a sand wedge 90 yards to six feet. A driver-rescue combination presented a straightforward chip shot — at least it seemed that way.

“I hit what I thought was a good chip shot, but all of the chip shots were hitting and just stopping. I was fortunate to make a 30-footer [for birdie] there,” Fieger, who works in sales, said.

Fieger made it a back-to-back birdie affair by sending an 8-iron 160 yards to 8 feet on No. 10. He swept in a 5-footer on the par-4, 382-yard 13th hole following a crisp pitching wedge from 126 yards.

A back-to-back birdie sequence also aided Clauson’s quest Tuesday. Standing two shots back of Fieger at the time, he drilled a 9-iron 130 yards to the back of the fifth green. Clauson barely touched a 15-footer, which subsequently snuck into the hole. “The best 4-iron I’ve ever hit” resulted in a 15-footer for birdie on the par 3, 204-yard No. 6.

“It was such a surprise to come out here and play well,” Clauson, a contractor, said. “I don’t have any expectations for tomorrow. The course is definitely gettable, depending on where [Golf Association of Philadelphia officials] put the flagsticks.”

Fieger is in the midst of a steady senior debut. He won the GAP Senior Four-Man Team alongside Buck Jones, Brian Rothaus and Jim Yenser and posted a Top-10 finish in the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s Senior Amateur Championship presented by LECOM.

“I’ve been hitting the ball solid. My putting’s been up-and-down this summer,” Fieger said. “I’ll keep doing what I’m doing tomorrow. Fairways and greens are usually what my strength is.”

Russo is within Senior Amateur striking distance and in the Senior Silver Cross Award lead. He holds a three-stroke lead over two-time reigning winner Glenn Smeraglio of Lu Lu Country Club entering the final leg. The Senior Silver Cross Award is presented to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the Francis B. Warner Cup (Gross), Frank H. Chapman Cup (Gross) and Senior Amateur Championship.

“Fortunately, I drove the ball phenomenal all day. I drove it long. I drove it straight,” Russo, 60, of Washington Township, N.J., said. “If I could just do the same thing I did today — I only missed two greens, then I’ll be in good shape.”

ABOUT THE Philadelphia Senior Amateur

Format: 36-hole individual stroke play over two days.

Eligibility: Open to GAP Member Club golfers who are 55 years of age and over as of the first day of the championship. Players must have a handicap index of 7.0 or lower, super-senior 7.0 or lower handicap index. A Super Senior (65 years of age and older) may play in the "Senior tournament," play to be from the Senior tees.

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