There is a new sheriff in Seniortown and his name is Chip Lutz. The Reading, Pa., resident shot a final-round 68 to come from five shots behind and win the Society of Seniors Spring Classic March 25 at the Santa Lucia River Club in Stuart, Fla. Lutz posted a three-round score of 224 for his second victory in three events since turning 55 in January. In second place at 229 were three other northern denizens, Alan Fadel (Toledo, Ohio), Fred Silver (Lewiston, N.Y.) and Pat Vincelli (Rosemount, Minn.).
Don Edwards, of Hobe Sound, Fla., won his first national super senior title by one shot over 2009 Super Senior Player of the Year Richard Anderson, of Bloomington, Minn.
Lutz’s 4-under 68 in the third round was the most dominant round in recent senior point event history. Consider:
- Lutz’s 68 was 13.13 shots better than the average of the rest of the field
- He leapfrogged 13 players on the last day after starting tied for 14th
- He had the low round of the day by five shots
The 2010 Senior Amateur Tour kicked off with seven events in Florida, and the final score was Mother Nature 7, Florida Convention and Visitors Bureau 0. Each tournament dealt with some variation of cold weather, heavy rain or unusually high wind that drove scores way above normal.
At Santa Lucia, wind was the culprit, though the Jack Nicklaus-designed course gets an assist for running up the scores with the severity of its green complexes. “You can’t get there from here” ran through the heads of players if their approaches were even a bit off target. The Society tried to mitigate the effects of the wind and the elephantine greens and surrounds by moving the tees forward, giving the players a chance to use short irons to fair pin placements.
“I’m a fairly long hitter,” said Lutz. “But the course required getting the ball in the fairway so that you could place it on the correct part of the green. I only hit driver about three times each round. It was a game of ball control, strategy and self-discipline. I struck it great the entire tournament and only made one double bogey all week, but getting up-and-down was sometimes impossible, and I didn’t do it very well in the first two rounds when I did have a chance. I also had to accept the fact that on this course, in these conditions, sometimes good shots produce bad results.”
After his opening 78, Lutz switched from his Titleist Scotty Cameron putter to a TaylorMade Rossa for Round 2. Both were 34-inches long. His second-round 78 made him rethink his putter choice again.
“I went to Mike Bell, who makes long putters in addition to being a great player, and he gave me some tips as to how to use a long putter,” Luta said. “I’ve fooled around with one before, but haven’t used it in competition and he helped me a lot.”
After Bell’s tutelage, Lutz decided to remove his 4-iron and carry a long and short putter in the last round. The short one never came out of the bag as he made an early long par-saving putt with a 47-inch Yes Natalie model. It was the right decision as he made six birdies in that final round compared to only one in the first two combined.
“I also made two 8 to 10-foot par-saving putts on my 16th and 17th holes,” said Lutz, who started on No. 2. “I was so far back when the round started and didn’t know where I stood, but thought that those two gave me a chance. I wasn’t so sure when I missed a missed a 4-footer for birdie on my last hole, but it didn’t matter.”
It may be a bit early to crown a new senior king. Bill Zylstra still has the 2010 point lead, two victories this year, five wins in his last 12 tournaments and hasn’t finished out of the top 10 in a senior point event since the Gateway Senior Invitational in January 2009. There are a few other players who can be in the mix by the end of the year. It’s going to be a great year in senior golf. It’s already been darn good for Chip Lutz.