Lutz, Hirsch take home Golfweek Senior titles
MIAMI – It was a success story for both a rookie and a veteran Jan. 17 in the Golfweek Senior National Championship at the Doral Golf Resort’s Great White Course in Miami.
Chip Lutz, of Reading, Pa., became perhaps the youngest champion of a true national senior amateur event by winning the 55-and-over division at age 55 years, six days. Lutz survived winds of up to 25 mph and a torrential squall that set in over the last six holes by fighting through the bluster in 1-over-par for an 8-over 224 total and five-shot victory. Kentucky’s Harris (Happy) Rakestraw, who had a one-shot lead when the rain hit, played the final six in 8 over, lost his lead and eventually finished six behind Lutz and in fourth place.
Jim Anthony (Franklin, Ind.) and David Fry (Montgomery, Ala.) tied for second, five back of Lutz.
The veteran part of the equation was supplied by Chicago’s Joel Hirsch, a former British Senior Amateur champion. Hirsch stampeded the super senior field by 10 shots, including a second-round 73 and third-round 75 that were both daily lows for the division. Ron Goldburg of Delray Beach, Fla., overcame a tightly-bunched pack in the battle for second.
Eighty-seven contestants started the tournament dealing with the extremely small and narrow greens that were made effectively smaller by the high winds buffeting the course during all three rounds. The Great White is regarded by Doral’s golf staff as far tougher than the Blue Monster. The course has dozens of hazards and there are few holes where the hazards do not flank both sides. Absent rough, the fairways, when not bordered by hazards, are lined with coarsely ground seashells. A ball landing on this surface scoots into palm trees, hazards or bushes that resemble Truffula Trees from The Lorax. The covers of the ball are abraded, and while the shells are relatively easy to hit from, iron soles come away looking like the surface of a peach pit. Many irons will need to be replaced or their bottoms ground back to smoothness when the players get home.
Both Lutz and Hirsch won by keeping big mistakes to a minimum. Lutz led the Seniors in the Most Pars or Better Category and Par-3 performance, while also making the third-highest number of birdies and having the fourth-best average on par-4s.
Hirsch dominated most of the statistical categories by leading in Pars or Better, Birdies, Par-4 Average, Par-5 Average and finishing fourth in Par-3 Average.
This year’s four-tournament Florida Swing exposed contestants to every season except summer. The players dealt with temperatures in the low 30s, gales and horizontal rain.
Never have so many competitors been anxious to head north in the middle of January.