Lutz chases history as Zahringer leads Seniors Open Am
Heading into the first round of the Seniors Open Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen, Chip Lutz, the 58-year-old from Reading, Pa., was trying to etch his name alongside Charles Green as only the second player in history to win the title three years in a row.
After carding an opening round of 70 that included five birdies, he sits in a three-way tie for third on a leaderboard dominated at the top by Americans.
Americans George Zahringer and Brady Exber posted opening round 69s to share the lead. Zahringer, a 60 year old stock broker from New York, was the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion and has twice claimed the low-amateur honors in his eight appearances in the U.S. Senior Open.
"I played very patiently and I'm very pleased with the score," said Zahringer, a Deepdale Golf Club member. "The key is keeping the ball in play and I only used my driver once all day. The conditions were good but the first and ninth par 4s were playing very long", said Zahringer. "I was hitting from 210 yards into the greens."
Exber, from Las Vegas, would have hit the jackpot after carding six birdies between the second and 15th holes but ran into trouble with a bogey-bogey finish. On the 18th hole, he had to declare his ball unplayable after hitting into the gorse – "So it was actually quite a good bogey," he said.
"I hit 15 greens but I made a couple of silly mistakes and felt I should have scored better," said Exber. "Today the weather and the course were absolutely beautiful and I didn't really take advantage of the ideal conditions. But I really enjoyed the round."
Lutz, last year's winner at Machynys Peninsula in Wales, and the 2011 winner at Royal Portrush in Ireland, had a shaky start by his own admission.
"I was a bit fidgety and a bit unsettled going out as the two-time champion," he said about his dropped shot on the first hole. "But then I calmed down and made a lot of good putts. Overall it was a decent day. My goal going out was to stay close to the lead."
The reigning U.S. Senior Amateur Champion, Paul Simson, who won the Seniors Open Amateur Championship title in 2006, 2008 and 2010 stayed within sight of the leaders after posting a 3-over 74 in the first round.
If Lutz can win the championship for the third straight time, he will complete what is being called the Celtic Slam – with major victories in Ireland, Whales, and Scotland.