The win was a long time coming. The champion overcame bouts of self-doubt, a year of well-intentioned “support” from friends and family and all the pressure that a year of preparations – and three years of close calls – provides. He even got to win in front of his mother for the first time.
After the year that 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Chip Lutz had, nobody should begrudge him a little extra time to savor the good times.
“It was phenomenal to have my mom, Janet, there for the win,” Lutz said. “She has been such a part of my golf career and one of my biggest supporters, but she was always in the background. She was uncertain about coming, even at the last moment. So I called my brother and said, ‘C’mon, see if you can get mom to let you bring her down.’ I thought this might be the one. She was my inspiration for the day, I couldn’t let her down.”
Lutz, 61, of Reading, Pa., didn’t let anybody down and devoted his offseason to savoring the victory.
“I just enjoyed the experience,” Lutz said. “My feet are just now starting to touch the ground. I took more time off than I normally do. But now I am anxious to get started. I got new clubs and want to find my game and I am looking forward to the opportunities I will get to play in other championships, so I want to commit to the energy and focus it will take to play my best this year. I got to my top of the mountain, but my wife, Bonnie, is so supportive and I just want to see if I can get back there again.”
After three years of losing in the semifinals of the U.S. Senior Amateur, the two-time winner of both The Seniors Amateur Championship, conducted by The R&A, and the Canadian Senior Men’s Championship was starting to worry that the win he most coveted wasn’t in the cards.
“I have always wanted to lift a USGA championship trophy and the Senior Amateur felt like my glass ceiling,” he said. “I just couldn’t break through. It felt spectacular to win. It was worth the wait. It completes for me what had been the missing link in my golf career.”
It can take a long time for winter to run its course in Reading, but time flew for Lutz when the members at his home club, LedgeRock Golf Club, threw him a party to honor his accomplishment.
“One thing led to another and the winter just flew by,” Lutz said. “I have the trophy at LedgeRock. I also built a trophy case in our home for replicas of the trophies from the U.S., British and Canadian senior amateurs. “I am not much for all this hardware, but these trophies are pretty special to me.”
He earned a 10-year exemption from qualifying for the U.S. Senior Amateur, plus exemptions into the next two U.S. Amateurs and U.S. Mid-Amateurs, and an exemption into the 2016 U.S. Senior Open. He is also exempt from local qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Unfortunately, adding more golf opportunities to an already crowded golf calendar clashes with real life – and Lutz is OK with that.
“We went on a Viking River Cruise last year that was interrupted by a terrible storm and a strike by the loch workers. So we got an opportunity to do it again this year. I have no regrets. Bonnie has supported my addiction to golf for years,” he said. “When I was younger, I pushed golf off my schedule for our kids and for business. We have spent so much time and energy away from home. I am not so consumed by golf that I can be happy doing other things and family is so important to us that we will find new ways to enjoy our life. This is her time now.”
Well, sort of. Lutz is still preparing for a busy playing schedule.
“I am going to change my schedule a bit, play some events in different parts of the country and enjoy the opportunity,” Lutz said. “I still want to win everything I can get my hands on, but I will be more selective in my championship schedule. I had a lot of people last year reminding me, ‘Hey pal, you gotta get this [winning the U.S. Senior Amateur] done.’ I appreciated their support, but it did put some pressure on me.
“I have always been quietly confident, even when I wasn’t winning. All my experiences have shaped my perspective immeasurably, good and bad. I am such a competitor, but when I couldn’t close the deal in the Senior Amateur, I started to worry that my game wouldn’t measure up and I began to doubt myself. But now that I have gotten over my biggest hurdle, I am going to take it all in. I have a sense of calm now. Don’t get me wrong, I am burning to win it all again, but now I know I can do it and just have to follow through.”
Lutz is among a cross-section of winners from the 2015 USGA championships to share some of the special moments they experienced with Members: