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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lutz named the world's top amateur in 2016

   I have often referred to Reading’s Chip Lutz in this blog as arguably the best senior amateur golfer in the world.
   Well, a group of golf experts at Global Golf Post, which bills itself as the world’s leading digital golf news magazine, validated that opinion last month, naming Lutz its male Amateur of the Year in 2016 as part of its All-Amateur Team presentation. That’s right, they named Lutz, who turns 62 next month, the top male amateur golfer on the planet in 2016.
   The female Amateur of the Year is England’s Bronte Law, who won the Annika Award as Division I’s top player as a UCLA junior and recently turned pro.
   Lutz, the seven-time Golf Association of Philadelphia Senior Player of the Year, basically earned his honor during a stretch in early August when he won The Seniors Amateur Championship for the third time at Formby Golf Club in England and then was the only amateur to make the cut at the U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio.
   “I went from England to Scioto where I was the only amateur to make the cut,” Lutz, who plays out of LedgeRock Golf Club in Mohnton, told Global Golf Post. “I got the gold medal there with my son on the bag. And, I hope to tell you, that was about as special as it gets.”
   Lutz made a long birdie putt on the first hole of three-man playoff to win the British Seniors crown for the third time, adding that to his two Canadian Senior titles and the elusive U.S. Senior Amateur championship that he finally grabbed at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. in 2015.
   Lutz fired a clutch 1-under 69 in the second round at Scioto after opening with a 77 to get inside the cut line and then went 74-70 on the weekend to finish tied for 37th at 10-over 290.
   Lutz was probably a little drained when he came home a few weeks later to tee it up in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall, a place he is very familiar with. His chances to make match play disappeared with four bogeys on the front side of the North Course – his second nine of the day -- on a Sunday that had turned blustery and cool after days, more like weeks, of high heat and humidity (full disclosure, I was looping for another player who failed to make match play at the North that day and the North was playing tough in the wind).
   It added up to a 6-over 76 for Lutz, which, combined with an opening-round 75 at the Old Course, left him two shots out of the playoff for the last spot in the match-play draw.
   A little more than a week later, Lutz was in St. Louis defending his U.S. Senior Amateur crown at Old Warson Country Club. He bounced back from an opening-round 77 in qualifying at Old Warson with a 1-over 72 to make match play before falling in the second round of match play.
   In his third USGA event in the month of September, Lutz represented Pennsylvania in the USGA State Team Championship held at the Country Club of Birmingham’s West Course in Alabama and helped the Keystone State finish tied for eighth at 5-over 531.
   The trio of Lutz, four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith and Christopher Crawford, who wrapped up a brilliant career at Drexel and then earned a spot in the U.S. Open field at Oakmont Country Club, entered the final round in second place in the team chase with Lutz matching par with a 71.
   The Global Golf Post story didn’t mention the Mid-Am, the Senior Amateur or the State Team Championship, but it is a pretty good read on Lutz’s career, including the fact that he basically didn’t  play competitively in the 1990s, shutting it down in favor of work and family. I would recommend giving it a look. There’s a link to it on the GAP website if you’re having trouble locating it.
   Among some of the other members of the men’s All-Amateur first team are Stanford senior Maverick McNealy, the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Florida sophomore Sam Horsfield, a native of England who grew up in Florida and is No. 3 in the WAGR, U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck of Australia and Bryson DeChambeau, the former SMU standout who has turned pro since claiming low-amateur honors at the Masters.
   Global Golf Post did not give much love to the mid-ams, although U.S. Mid-Am finalists Stewart Hagestad and Scott Harvey might get some notice in 2017 if one or both can fight their way onto the U.S. Walker Cup team.
   Law was probably a narrow choice over Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup teammate Leona Maguire, a junior at Duke who is No. 1 in the WAGR, for the choice as female Amateur of the Year.
   But Law was recognized for her college play with the Annika Award and she did go 5-0 in GB&I’s victory over the U.S. in the Curtis Cup at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club outside of Dublin, Ireland, joining LPGA star Stacy Lewis as the only players to accomplish that feat.
   Law also made the cut the Ricoh British Women’s Open, had a dramatic come-from-behind win in the European Ladies Amateur and led England to its first European Ladies Amateur Team Championship in 23 years.
   Maguire was the low amateur at the Ricoh British Women’s Open and represented Ireland at both the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, helping the Irish to a bronze medal in Mexico.
   Maguire was eligible for LPGA Qualifying School’s Final Stage, but announced on the eve of the Q-School Final that she would remain at Duke for the rest of this year and next year before turning pro. Law earned conditional status on the LPGA Tour for 2017 and turned pro.
   In most years, Law and Maguire probably would have shown up at Rolling Green Golf Club for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, but all the schedule shifting to allow for the return of golf to the Olympics resulted in a conflict with the Ricoh British Women’s Open.
   Another All-Amateur first-teamer, Hannah O’Sullivan, also teed it up at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club rather than defend her U.S. Women’s Amateur title at Rolling Green. O’Sullivan was to join the powerhouse Southern California program in the fall, but at some point decided she was going to turn pro and bypass college golf.
   O’Sullivan was not in the field at the LPGA Q-School Final, but it’s possible she didn’t advance out of one of the earlier stages.
   But Rolling Green did offer a chance to see most of the top amateur players in the world and that’s reflected in some of the Global Golf Post’s All-Amateur team selections.
   The two finalists at Rolling Green, South Korea’s Eun Jeong Seong and Italy’s Virginia Elena Carta, are on the first team.
   Seong’s dramatic victory on the 36th hole at Rolling Green gave her a rare double as she added the U.S. Women’s Amateur title to the U.S. Girls’ Junior crown she won a couple of weeks earlier at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
   Carta had announced her presence on the college scene earlier in 2016 with a runaway victory in the NCAA individual championship as a freshman at Duke.
   Hong Kong’s Tiffany Chan, a senior at USC, and Wake Forest freshman Sierra Brooks, a member of a youthful U.S. Curtis Cup team, are two other All-Amateur first-team picks who were at Rolling Green. Chan fell in the first round of match play and then jetted off to Brazil and teed it up in the Summer Olympics. Brooks, who had fallen in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur final to O’Sullivan, failed to qualify for match play at Rolling Green.
   No less than seven members of the All-Amateur second team teed it up at Rolling Green, including U.S. Curtis Cuppers Mariel Galdiano, Andrea Lee, Mika Liu, Bailey Tardy and Monica Vaughan.
   I got to watch most of Galdiano’s second round of qualifying at Rolling Green and the UCLA freshman from Pearl City, Hawaii put on quite a show, ripping off four straight birdies at one point in a brilliant 6-under 65 over the tough William Flynn design that gave her medalist honors at 9-under 133. She was an upset loser in the first round of match play.
   Lee, who made a big splash in the fall portion of her freshman season at Stanford, reached the quarterfinals at Rolling Green before falling to eventual champion Seong on the 18th green in a tremendous match. It was a rematch of the U.S. Girls’ Junior final a couple of weeks earlier at Ridgeway that Seong also won.
   Liu, who will join Lee at Stanford next fall, Tardy, a sophomore at Georgia, and Vaughn, a senior at Arizona State and the grizzled veteran of the U.S. Curtis Cup team, all made the match-play bracket at Rolling Green.
   Another second-team pick who had a strong showing at Rolling Green was South Carolina senior Katelyn Dambaugh. I watched the talented left-hander fall, 2 and 1, in a terrific round-of-16 match with Japanese teen Nasa Hataoka.
   Dambaugh was the runnerup to Law in the Annika Award voting and teamed up with Galdiano and Lee to help the U.S. finish sixth at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship. Dambaugh teed it up at the LPGA Q-School Final and played well enough to earn conditional status, but will return for the second half of her senior season with the Gamecocks before turning pro next summer.
   Also on the second team is France’s Mathilda Cappeliez, who reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur for the second year in a row at Rolling Green before falling. Along with Brooks, she gives Wake Forest a very talented pair of freshman players.
   Hataoka earned honorable mention on the All-Amateur team. She fell in the quarterfinals at Rolling Green after knocking off Dambaugh and she was still an amateur when she won the Japan Women’s Open Championship, a JLPGA major, in October. Hatoaka then turned pro and will be fully exempt  on the LPGA Tour in 2017 after a strong showing at the LPGA Q-School Final that wrapped up earlier this month.
   Alabama teammates Cheyenne Knight, a sophomore from Aledo, Texas, and Kristen Gillman, a freshman from Austin, Texas, are two other honorable mention picks who advanced to the match-play bracket at Rolling Green. Gillman won the 2014 U.S. Amateur title as a 16-year-old at Nassau Country Club on Long Island.

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