For a fourth straight year Overbrook Golf Club’s Ray Thompson has a match in the opening round of the U.S. Senior Amateur Monday morning following a clutch 1-under-par 70 in the second round of qualifying at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
And Thompson’s performance was just part of a really solid showing by the Golf Association of Philadelphia contingent at Hidden Creek this weekend. Sure, it’s a bit of a home game for the locals, but you still have to hit the quality golf shots to be one of the top 64 among the top senior players from all over the country.
GAP’s Senior Player of the Year will likely be decided this week at the shore as three of the top contenders for the award, Thompson, Reading’s Chip Lutz and Glen Smeraglio of Newtown, Bucks County and Mercer Oaks Golf Club all qualified for match play. They earned points for making match play and can earn points for each match they win at Hidden Creek.
Lutz, a two-time British Senior Amateur champion who plays out of LedgeRock Golf Club, has been one of the top senior amateur players in the world for some time. He is gunning for his sixth straight GAP Senior Player of the Year award. One of these days, they might have to name the thing after him.
Lutz added a 2-over 73 Sunday to his opening-round 71 for a 2-over 144 total that left him tied for eighth. He’ll open match play with an all-GAP affair as he’ll face Lancaster Country Club’s Kenneth Phillips, who posted a clutch 1-over 72 to get into match play at 8-over 150, at 8:40 a.m.
The 12 players who finished at 9-over 151 will play off for the final spot in match play just before the matches commence Monday morning.
Lutz was joined at 2-over 144 by Merion Golf Club’s Buddy Marucci, the 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur champion who added an even-par 71 Sunday to his opening-round 73.
That sets up something of a Walker Cup all-star opening-round match between Marucci, who captained the U.S. team to victory in 2007 and 2009, and Jim Holtgrieve, who succeeded Marucci as the Walker Cup captain in 2011 and 2013. Holtgrieve, a three-time winner as a Walker Cup player, rallied for an even-par 71 after opening up with a 79 to earn his date with Marucci. They’ll tee off at 9 a.m.
Brian Rothaus of Five Ponds Golf Club added a 74 Sunday to his opening-round 71 to finish in a tie for 12th at 3-over 145. Rothaus draws Gary Carpendale of Las Vegas, Nev. In the opening round at 12:30 p.m.
Just before Lutz and Phillips tee off, Thompson starts at 8:30 a.m. against Ben Brundred of Potomac, Md.
Thompson struggled a little during his opening-round 76 Saturday, but the 63-year-old Drexel Hill resident was solid as a rock Sunday. He made birdie at the third and a bogey at the sixth to make the turn at the 6,864-yard, par-71 Hidden Creek layout at even-par 36.
He faltered a little on the back with bogeys at 11 and 16. Perhaps sensing that he was flirting with the cut line at 7-over, Thompson took care of business with an eagle at the par-5 17th and a birdie at the par-4 finishing hole to complete his 1-under round and end up 4-over and tied for 17th overall in qualifying.
With Thompson, a Marple Newtown grad, and Marucci, a Haverford High product, in match play, to paraphrase Conestoga golf coach Kevin Pechin, Central League is in the house.
Little Mill Country Club’s Thomas Hyland also made match play, adding a 2-over 73 to his opening-round 74 to finish in a tie for 24th at 5-over 147. He’s off right before Rothaus at 12:20 p.m. against Mills Brown of Scottsdale, Ariz.
And rounding out the GAP contingent is Smeraglio, who was in trouble after an opening-round 79 Saturday. But he battled back with an even-par 71 to finish in a tie for 54th at 8-over 150. Smeraglio was sitting at 10-over and needed to make something happen when, like Thompson, he made eagle at the par-5 17th to get to 8-over.
Smeraglio draws Gary Robinson of Fayetteville, N.C. in the opening round. Robinson fired a 1-under 70 Sunday to finish in a tie for fifth at 1-over 143. They tee off at 10 a.m.
Medalist honors went to Randal Lewis of Alama, Mich., who had had a 3-under 68 Sunday to finish at 4-under 138. Lewis became the oldest U.S. Mid-Amateur champion in 2011 when he won that title at age 54.
It was also a strong effort by GAP’s reigning two-time Super-Senior Player of the Year – and I’m pretty sure he’s in good shape to make it three straight – Don Donatoni of White Manor Country Club. Donatoni posted a solid 2-over 74 Sunday to finish at 10-over 152, just a shot out of that 12-man playoff for the final spot in match play.