U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Lutz Overcomes Balky Putter to Reach Quarterfinals September 29, 2015 | Egg Harbor Township, N.J. By Tom Mackin

Chip Lutz is back in a familiar spot at the U.S. Senior Amateur, but this time he'd like to etch his name on the trophy. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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You could understand Chip Lutz feeling slightly uncomfortable standing over a downhill birdie putt on the 18th hole at Hidden Creek Golf Club to win his Round-of-16 match against Curtis Skinner at the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur.

Skinner, of Lake Bluff, Ill., had just run his own birdie effort past the hole, but Lutz had already missed very makeable putts on the three previous holes, each of which would have won the tight match, in which his largest lead was 2 up after the 12th hole.

But this time, the result was different.

“I told him before he got over the ball, ‘You’re a good putter,’” said his caddie, 23-year-old Allen Nagbe. “He just said, ‘Yeah buddy, thanks, I appreciate that.’ He went up there and just stroked it. We finally made one.”

“I knew I had to get it out there on the right and let it fall over,” said Lutz, who is closing on his sixth consecutive Golf Association of Philadelphia Player of the Year title. “I didn’t want to get too aggressive. It was just really nice to see it go in. I was shell-shocked after missing those other putts.”

The putting performance on the back nine was out of character for Lutz.

“It would have been easy to put my putter over my knee,” he said with a laugh. “It was quite frustrating. But I was really confident in how well I was playing and felt that something would finally break loose for me to finish this thing off. It’s the second round of the day and you’re getting closer to the end and want to get into the top eight [and earn an exemption into the 2016 championship]. Maybe the nerves kicked up a bit.”

Lutz has been relying heavily on Nagbe, who has caddied for nine years at Hidden Creek.

“On the greens, I line up everything for him,” said Nagbe. “He’s been hitting it close enough in proximity to the hole that he doesn’t have to worry about too many misses. During the Round of 32 (in which Lutz defeated Kenneth Coutant, of Dallas, 3 and 2, on Tuesday morning) he had probably his worst putting performance of the championship. It kind of led into the Round of 16 match.”

“Unfortunately I just got a little wiggly and it was hard to close him (Skinner) out,” said Lutz. “I made it harder on myself than the match really dictated. I’m going to go work out it now and hopefully will do better tomorrow.”

Having reached the U.S. Senior Amateur semifinals in 2010, 2011 and 2013, it’s a championship he would love to add an already impressive collection, which includes back-to-back victories in both the Canadian Men’s Senior Championship  and the Seniors Amateur Championship (2011 and 2012).

“It’s been short on my resume and a near-miss three times, so that part has been disappointing,” he admitted. “But I try to be optimistic and stay positive.”

With an eye on this week, Lutz decided to play less this year.

“I worked at it pretty hard the past five years, so this year I really focused on the major amateur tournaments,” he said. “I played in a lot fewer regionals and invitationals. I really tried to make this championship one of the few I play.”

So far, so good.

New Jersey native Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com

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