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Lupton Invitational: Experience pays off as Deraney gets 2nd win
- USGA photo
- USGA photo

The final round of the John T. Lupton Memorial turned into a match race on Sunday. Joseph Deraney and Chris Wheeler separated themselves from the field before Deraney emerged victorious.

Deraney (Belden, Miss.) closed with a two-over par 74 in windy conditions to finish the 54 holes at The Honors Course outside Chattanooga, Tenn. at 3-over par 219. Wheeler, from Addison, Texas, came home with a 76 to finish at 223. Stephen Behr (Atlanta, Ga.), the 2020 AmateurGolf.com Mid-Amateur Player-of-the-Year, finished alone in third place at 224 after a closing 73.

The defending champion Whit Turnbow (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Kris Mikkelsen (Atlanta, Ga.), and Mikey Feher (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) were all at 228 after rounds of 72, 73, and 77 respectively.

Deraney started the final round with a two-shot lead over Wheeler but the two were tied standing on the 10th tee. Deraney took the lead with a birdie at the par-4 12th but Wheeler responded with a birdie of his own at the par-4 13th while Deraney bogeyed 13 and 14. With four holes left in regulation, he was two shots behind. At that point, the two- time Canadian Amateur champion got his second wind. He parred the par-4 15th while Wheeler double bogeyed. After both parred the par-3 16th , Deraney reached the par-5 17th in two with a 3-iron, leaving him a 10-foot eagle putt. He missed, but his birdie gave him a one-shot lead going to the 18th tee. He went on to par 18 while Wheeler triple bogeyed.

“[The second shot at 17] was probably the biggest shot, momentum-wise,” Deraney said. “I hit a really, really good 3- iron in there.”

Deraney, who won the Lupton in 2016 after finishing runner-up the previous year, said experience was a major asset in coping with the conditions he experienced this week.

“You understand, when you go to The Honors, as soon you say, ‘Let’s get aggressive,’ it probably wasn’t a good idea,” he said. “You play smart, play conservative, pick good targets, make aggressive swings.”

“But when you play in these conditions a lot, obviously, you get used to it. You know what shot works, what shot doesn’t. You shouldn’t be trying curve the ball too much into the wind, if you’re dead into the wind. You know it’s not going to curve. If you’re dead downwind you’ve got to hit it straight. If you’re feeling good, if you’re in control of stuff, it probably eliminates a lot of the field because not everybody’s as sharp day to day. So, if you can stay sharp day to day, if the conditions are tough, you feel all right about your game.”

Deraney will take his game to a U.S. Open final qualifier on June 7 at Piedmont in Atlanta. He’s advanced through the local stage by his count “Five or six times,” but has never made the championship itself.

Billy Mitchell claimed the Senior Division title. He collected 29 points on Sunday under Stableford scoring (one point for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie, four for an eagle). Mitchell, who calls Atlanta home, completed the 54 holes with 112 points.

Paul Simson (Raleigh, N.C.) took second place with 110 points after claiming 37 on Sunday. Bob Royak (Alpharetta, Ga.) wound up third with 109 (36 on Sunday). Richard Kerper (Oldsmar, Fla.) was fourth with 104 (29 on Sunday) and Jack Hall (Savannah, Ga.) was fifth with 101 (31).

Mitchell did not have a double bogey on his scorecard all week; he scored at least one point on every hole. He said he looked to strike a balanced and play aggressive golf without being reckless.

“My goal is kind of always to not have a hole where I score zero points,” he said. “So, in some fashion, you can be a little bit more aggressive, but in others, you need to be a little bit more patient and try not do more than what you really should.”

Mitchell got off to fast start in Friday’s opening round with a 6-under par 66 that earned him 42 points. He took a back-to- basics approach from there. “I really tried to focus on playing patient golf,” he said. “That’s kind of middle-of-the-green, smart golf, not really take on anything unnecessary. And the golf course kind of rewards you for that if you do that here. It’s a really magnificent place. The conditions were firm and they were fast. So, with the wind blowing as hard as it was today, it was about club selection. If I was off a little bit, I kind of erred to the middle third of the green.”

Mitchell is having an impressive 2021 season. He’s already qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, tied for second at the Carlton Woods Senior Invitational, and tied for fourth at both the Timuquana Cup and the Golfweek Senior Amateur.

Emile Vaughn from Montgomery, Alabama, won the Super Senior title for competitors 65 and over. He collected 34 Stableford points on Sunday to finish with 104 over 54 holes. Vaughn was the runner-up at the North South Senior in 2013 and reached the final 16 of the U.S. Senior Amateur the following year.

Peter Allen (Southport, S.C.) was second with 102 points including 35 on Sunday, the best effort in the Super Senior field. Richard Brane (Ooltewah, Tenn.) was third with 100 including 33 on Sunday.

Results: Lupton Memorial Invitational
1MSJoseph DeraneyBelden, MS30074-71-74=219
2TXChristopher WheelerAddison, TX20074-73-76=223
3GAStephen BehrAtlanta, GA10075-76-73=224
T4TNWhit TurnbowMurfreesboro, TN10075-81-72=228
T4GAKris MikkelsenAtlanta, GA10077-78-73=228

View full results for Lupton Memorial Invitational

ABOUT THE Lupton Memorial Invitational

This event, named after club founder John T. Lupton, debuted in 2005 on a spectacular Pete Dye golf course near Chatanooga. Mitch Voges won the 1991 U.S. Amateur here, and Tiger Woods won the 1996 NCAA Championship here despite a final round 80. 54 hole individual event with a 36 hole cut. Stroke play format for the Championship division and Stableford format for the Senior division. Committee will invite 72 mid ams and 54 senior ams. The field will be cut to approximately 75% in each division following the 2nd round.

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