Lutz returns with record-breaking win at GAP Senior Amateur
Photo: Golf Association of Philadelphia
Photo: Golf Association of Philadelphia

Chip Lutz didn’t just return. He returned only like Chip Lutz, a Golf Association of Philadelphia Senior Champion unlike any others of his time, could.

The LedgeRock Golf Club member marveled at Country Club of Scranton (par 72, 6,652 yards), taking the 51st GAP Senior Amateur Championship. It was his second Senior Amateur win. Lutz, who fired a 1-under 71 Tuesday paired with an opening 4-under 68 in the opening round, finished at 5-under 139 for the week.

At six strokes better than the rest of the 99-player field, he set the margin-of-victory record.

Entering Tuesday, Lutz possessed a two-stroke lead over the home club’s Michael Vassil, a 14-time Scranton Club Champion and 10-time Senior Club Champion. With a 1:45 p.m. beginning time, the leaders were greeted on the first tee with erratic, gusting winds. That one-stroke Lutz lead split in half after No. 1 (par 4, 402 yards), where his three putt meant bogey 5 to begin. Lutz steadied the ship with a string of six pars after that. His birdie on No. 8 (par 4, 296 yards) was another sigh of relief to get back to level par. On the other hand, Vassil found three bogey blemishes (Nos. 3, 5, 7) at a time when he couldn’t afford to while chasing the LedgeRock legend.

“After making those pars, plus the birdie, I was feeling relatively okay at the turn. Mike and Mark [Bartkowski] weren’t making a huge push on the front. I didn’t really know what anyone else out there was doing at the time,” said Lutz, 66, of Reading, Pa.

The 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur Champion flexed his muscles with a statement-making hot streak on Scranton’s back side. After bogeying Nos. 10 (par 4, 400 yards) and 11 (par 3, 151 yards) on Monday, he really wanted to attack those on Tuesday.

A par on 10 was an improvement, but a 9-iron to 12 feet on the 11th was even better with birdie 2. Next, Lutz decided to take advantage of the upcoming par 5s. On No. 12 (par 5, 483 yards), Lutz found the green complex in two, but still sat 60 feet away. His eagle putt came to rest above the hole, and with confidence, he jarred a challenging six-foot slider for the 4. On the par-5, 535-yard 14th, a 3-wood draw from 300 yards out ran out to 30 feet from the hole. Lutz two putted there to get to 7 under for the championship.

“After that stretch, I didn’t think anybody was really going to be close to me. I was just trying to finish after that,” said Lutz.

With room for error coming down Scranton’s final test holes, Lutz played it conservatively. Short par putts on both Nos. 17 (par 3, 218 yards) and 18 (par 5, 503 yards) didn’t fall. And it didn’t matter.

“I putted really well all week. Unfortunately, I did stumble coming in there, but I don’t want to dwell on that too much,” said Lutz. “This really is an amazing venue. [Vassil] was gracious enough to show me the course on Friday before the event here so that was a big help to get some insight and take some notes. It’s really a shot maker’s club. You really have to navigate yourself around the course.”

The nine-time GAP Senior Player of the Year Award winner (2010-18) last grasped the GAP Senior Amateur trophy in 2014. It’s a title he’s more than welcome to invite back into his crowded and decorated trophy case – one that includes three British Senior Amateur Championships, two Canadian Men’s Senior Championships and the aforementioned U.S. Senior Amateur title. All of that — plus countless other achievements — resulted in a 2015 National Senior Amateur Hall of Fame induction.

But all the national success and thousands of miles traveled around the globe caught up to Lutz two seasons ago. That’s the reason you haven’t seen his famed name among many tee sheets lately.

“I guess you never know whether you still have it or not, and there’s always that doubt. I took some time off from the game. It was just one of those things, ‘Do I want to give it up? Do I want to continue?,’ so I had to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going,” said Lutz. “I still really haven’t solved that question completely, but it sure is good to be back.”

Some answers to that solution surfaced two weeks ago in the U.S. Senior Amateur at the Country Club of Detroit (Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.) where Lutz reached the Quarterfinals as the No. 2 overall seed.

“I did work on my game leading up to the U.S. Senior Amateur because it’s always something I want to do well in. That was important to me, and although I didn’t go the distance, there’s no doubt that was helpful in preparation for this week’s event,” said Lutz, who is exempt into the U.S. Senior Amateur via his 2015 victory.

Joining him in Detroit was Chris Fieger, Sr. of Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association, who finished as runner-up this week at CC of Scranton. Fieger, the two-time reigning Senior Amateur Champion, entered the day five back of the eventual winner.

“If you try to get a little aggressive with this golf course, you’re going to hit it over some greens and then you’re going to be dead. And then I had two three putts today, but I had four yesterday. So if you’re going to catch a player like Chip, you can’t have that many three putts,” said Fieger, 58, of Denver, Pa., who finished at 1-over this week. “But Chip’s record speaks for itself. He’s such a great player and also humble. I’ve never played with him so one of these days we’re going to end up getting paired together.”

Although Lutz may have some questions that still remain regarding how much competitive golf he wants to entertain, there remain no questions about his GAP legacy, especially with his record-setting performance in this week’s storybook return.

“This is my first individual victory in a few years. It’s just great to be back in the winner’s circle, especially here in GAP, where I haven’t participated for a couple years, so I’m thrilled,” said Lutz. “GAP is my home.”

NOTE: The Senior Silver Cross Award was Tuesday’s second trophy awarded. Entering the day with a three-stroke lead over the field, Jeff Hudson of Olde Homestead Golf Club carded a 4-over 76 Tuesday to secure the season-long award. He finished at 7-over 291 for that title, which is given to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the Francis B. Warner Cup (Gross), Frank H. Chapman Cup (Gross) and Senior Amateur Championship.

View results for Philadelphia Senior Amateur
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.

View Complete Tournament Information

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