Champion Chip Lutz (left) and runner-up Paul Simson
If you don't have your best stuff on the golf course, no overnight lead is big enough. Just ask Greg Norman, who seemingly had one arm in the green jacket in 1996 at Augusta National, sleeping on a six shot lead in 1996 only to see it all go away in the final round to Nick Faldo.
And at Pinehurst, North Carolina's Forest Creek Golf Club, it was exactly six shots that separated Chip Lutz from Paul Simson and Don Donatoni at the S.O.S. National Super Senior -- his first event ever in that age category.
But unlike the first round, when he posted a flawless 6-under 66, and the second round when he again posted the low round of the day at 2-under 70, Lutz couldn't get into a comfortable rhythm in today's final round.
"It rained overnight, and the wind kicked up" said the three-time AGC Senior Player-of-the-Year (2010-12) in an exclusive phone interview with AmateurGolf.com. "It seemed like every approach shot I had was a number between two clubs."
After finding a buried lie in a bunker on the par-3 second hole, Lutz "hacked one out" to a reasonable distance but missed the par putt. When he missed the short come-backer and took an early double, his fellow competitors took notice.
Donatoni made birdie at No. 2, effectively cutting Lutz's lead in half. And with Simson already 1-under on the day after birdieing the first, there were now two players three shots behind Lutz, playing in the same group. And there were plenty of holes left.
As Donatoni faded to a 78, it was up to Simson to give chase, as the rest of the field was also struggling with the more challenging conditions.
Simson recorded back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, but from that point on went 2-under, making his third birdie of the day on No. 17 to get to 3-under on the tournament, and more importantly just one shot behind Lutz standing on the last tee.
When Lutz hit his drive into the hazard on the par-5 closer, and with Simson within 15 feet for birdie, this one was coming down to the wire. Lutz went into grind mode. Make par, and Simson will have to hole a fairly long putt to tie.
"I managed to get my third shot [including the penalty] to the front of the green," said Lutz. I had a long birdie putt and managed to get it to tap-in distance, which was nice since I had missed a couple of short ones."
When Simson's putt slid by, the two players that have competed against each other, and side-by-side as partners, bumped elbows knowing that there is indeed a great deal of life in competitive golf after 65. This time, the title went to Lutz. Not a bad way to start off in your first tournament as a Super Senior.
Finishing third at 1-over for the tournament was Rick Woulfe of Ft. Lauderdale. Stephen Fox (West Virginia) and Rick Herpich (Michigan) finished tied for fourth at 3-over.
SECOND ROUND COVERAGE
Chip Lutz continued his assault on the Forest Creek Golf Club in Pinehurst, NC as he seeks to claim the inaugural Society of Seniors National Super Senior title.
Playing alongside some of the best "over 65" players in the country, Lutz recorded just his first bogey in 36 holes today, but added three birdies to post 2-under 70. Coupled with his first round 66, the Pennsylvanian is now at 8-under, and enjoying a six stroke advantage over Paul Simson and Don Donatoni.
Both Simson, the North Carolina legend, and Donatoni, of Pennsylvania, fired their second straight rounds of 71 today to stand at 2-under for the tournament and tied second.
Jeff Burda of Modesto, Calif. fired 3-under 69 to get to even par for the tournament; he's tied with Rick Woulfe of Florida who posted 73 today.
But all of them are going to need some "help" if they are going to catch the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur champion.
FIRST ROUND COVERAGE
Competitive senior golfers travel in fairly small circles.
With the desire of golfers half their age, and more time on their hands to compete, it's not uncommon to find the same names appear at the biggest championships.
Top names like Doug Hanzel, Gene Elliott, and Ken Kinkopf duke it out week after week at some private club somewhere where the weather is nice. Most of the tournaments they play at have Super Senior divisions for players over 65. But the focus is on the 55-and-over group which usually has the most players by two or three times.
Golfweek has hosted a big Senior and Super Senior National championship, but the USGA only includes one big division for everyone 55 and over in the U.S. Senior Amateur.
At Pinehurst this week, it is "Super Seniors only" who are welcome at the Society of Seniors National Super Senior Championship. The field was open to players who have achieved key milestones in their golf careers, and rounded out with entries at large in case the field had late openings.
One of those players, Chip Lutz of Reading, Pennsylvania, could probably check off about every one of the exemption categories.
Today at Forest Creek Golf Club in Pinehurst, NC, the 65 year old Lutz fired 6-under 66. There wasn't a bogey on his card. But there were six birdies, including four on the front nine. That gives the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur and 2016 British Senior champ a five shot lead over four players.
Among those four are the legendary Paul Simson of North Carolina, who broke his age of 69 in the final round of the North & South Senior (55-and-over) at Pinehurst just over a month ago in claiming victory. And also in the group is Florida legend Rick Woulfe, as well as Don Donatoni of Pennsylvania and Stephen Fox of West Virginia.
Should Lutz keep playing the way he is, it could turn into a one man race. But let's not give him the title yet - he's being pursued by a talented group of "Super" seniors.
View results for SOS Super Senior Championship