Chris Wheeler and Bob Royak grab first round leads at the Lupton Memorial
Chris Wheeler
Chris Wheeler

Chris Wheeler (Addison, Texas) carded a 6-under 66 while Bob Royak (Alpharetta, Ga.) posted a 4-under 68 to take the first-round leads in the mid-amateur and senior divisions of the John T. Lupton Memorial being played at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.

Wheeler, who won the Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play title in 2021 and the Texas Mid-Amateur in 2019, brought a tough golf course to its knees on Friday to take a three-shot lead in the mid-amateur division. After going out in 2-under, Wheeler added birdies on hole Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 17 to polish off a 6-under round of 66.

"The Honors is probably my favorite course and the Lupton is a great event so it was a special day to play well," said Wheeler. "The course was very firm after the renovation last year and the greens were tough to hold so approach shots had to be crisp. Fortunately, I hit some good ones to close range and made a couple of putts from 10-20 feet.

"There are big numbers out there on this course if you’re not in control of the ball so I hope to keep it going for the next couple of days."
Three back is former Tennessee standout Jack Smith who was at 5-under on his round before making bogeys on his final two holes and settling for a 69.

Derek Rende, Sam Jackson and Mark Harrell are four off the pace after rounds of 70.

After a rollercoaster opening nine, Harrell picked up three birdies on the backside for a 2-under 70 while Rende got into red numbers with an eagle on the par-5 17th hole.

Very little wind in the opening round made for optimum scoring conditions. A total of 12 golfers are at even or better after the first round on The Honors Course, where the champion has finished under par just twice in the tournament's history.

Royak, the 2019 U.S. Senior Amateur champion who finished third in this event two years ago, opened with a 4-under 68 to take a two-shot lead over Michael Hughett. Doug Hanzel, Ken Kinkopf and Andy Fogarty are three back a 1-under.

Royak played near flawless golf, picking up five birdies before making his lone bogey of the day on his 15th hole (par 5 6th hole).

"Really nice round today," said Royak. "This layout is always a challenge and the practice round was eye-opening. The greens are very firm and very fast. So every approach shot needed to be well positioned. I drove the ball pretty well and kept just about every shot below the hole to keep things pretty stress free.

"I drove it really well to set up a lot of good chances. The Honors Course is a terrific test."

North Carolina legend Paul Simson, the first person to win the U.S. Senior Amateur, the British Senior Amateur and the Canadian Senior Amateur in the same year, is one of three golfers at even par.

The Lupton is synonymous with Memorial Day Weekend in Ooltewah and is one of the most coveted titles on the mid-amateur circuit, along with the Coleman Invitational at Seminole Golf Club, the Anderson Memorial at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, and the Crump Cup at Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey.

The John T. Lupton Memorial will continue Saturday and Sunday at The Honors Course.

Results: Lupton Memorial Invitational
1NCHayes BrownCharlotte, NC30074-70-72=216
2MSJoseph DeraneyBelden, MS20071-71-74=216
T3TNMikey FeherSignal Mountain, TN10075-71-71=217
T3SCSam JacksonW. Columbia, SC10070-69-78=217
T3TXChristopher WheelerAddison, TX10066-72-79=217

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 walking-only event. Stroke play format for the Championship division and Stableford format for the Senior division. Committee will invite 39 mid ams and 48 senior ams.

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