Pennsylvania’s entry in the USGA Men’s State Team Championship at the Country Club of Birmingham’s West Course in Birmingham, Ala. couldn’t be more generationally balanced.
Which is why it’s nice to see the Keystone State sitting in second place, just two shots behind leader Connecticut, with one round to go.
The Pennsylvania team is comprised of an almost college graduate in Christopher Crawford, one of the premier mid-amateur players in the country in four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and three-time U.S. Walker Cup team member Nathan Smith and 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur champion and arguably the best senior amateur player on the planet in Chip Lutz.
Crawford used up his collegiate eligibility last spring while completing the finest career in the history of the Drexel golf program, but he is in a five-year academic program at Drexel and is helping out the Dragons as an assistant coach.
Smith and Lutz both failed to reach match play at a tough Stonewall earlier this month. Lutz then lost in the second round of match play in defense of his U.S. Senior Amateur title at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis.
Crawford, whose summer was highlighted by earning a ticket to the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, led Team Pa. in Thursday’s second round with a 1-under 70. Combined with his opening-round 69, he has a 3-under 139 that has him tied for second in the overall individual scoring.
But the big prize in this event is the team title, which Pennsylvania, with Smith playing a big role, last won in 2009. And Crawford got a big boost from the 61-year-old Lutz, who won the Seniors Amateur Championship in England for the third time this summer. Lutz looked like he was going to go really low when he got it to 3-under with three holes to play, but he had a couple of tough holes at six and seven, his 16th and 17th of the day, to finish at even-par 71.
Still, Team Pa.’s 1-under 141 gave it a 1-under 283 total for two days, two shots back of Connecticut’s 3-under 281.
“I feel like I leaked some oil at the end and let my guys down,” said Lutz, the reigning six-time Golf Association of Philadelphia Senior Player of the Year. “I played steady and hit some great shots, so I was pleased with that part of my day, but my score didn’t really reflect what I was hoping to get out of it.”
Team Pa. was able to throw out Smith’s 74 Thursday, but his opening-round 73 was a counter in Wednesday’s opening round.
Connecticut was led by Geoff Vartelas, who helped Penn State earn a spot in the NCAA regionals as a senior last spring. Vartelas added a 1-under 70 Thursday to his opening-round 68 and is the individual leader at 4-under 138.
John Flaherty added a 71 to give Connecticut a 1-under 141 and its 3-under 281 total.
Arizona is another shot back of Pennsylvania in third at even-par 284. Arizona got a pair of 70s from Cory Bacon and Ken Tanigawa Thursday for a 2-under 140.
Three teams, North Carolina, Minnesota and Michigan, are tied for fourth at 1-over 285.
North Carolina was led Thursday by Justin Tereshko, whose 4-under 68 has him tied with Crawford for second in the individual standings at 3-under 139. North Carolina also got an even-par 71 from Scott Harvey, who suffered a heartbreaking loss on the 37th hole of the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Stonewall two weeks ago.
Michigan got a 1-under 70 Thursday from Tom Werkmeister, another name familiar to anyone who was paying attention to the Mid-Am at Stonewall. Werkmeister and Harvey were two of the three qualifying co-medalists at Stonewall.
Pennsylvania got a strong third-place finish at last year’s USGA Women’s State Team Championship at Dalhoussie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo. The Keystone State was represented by former Chichester and Purdue standout Aurora Kan, former Radnor and current North Carolina standout Brynn Walker and former North Pocono and Penn State standout Ellen Ceresko.