Orlando, Fla. – Don Thames and Chip Lutz are both playing in their first USGA Senior Amateur Championship this week, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the leaderboard. After two qualifying rounds, Thames and Lutz find themselves with the early clubhouse lead for medalist honors at 1-under-par 143 at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club.
Thames, 55, of Rancho Murieta, Calif., carded a 1-under 71 on Sunday, while the 55-year-old Lutz of Philadelphia, Pa., had an even-par 72 over the 6,691-yard layout.
Two of the three first-round leaders – Robin McCool of Bethlehem, Pa., and 2007 champion Stanford Lee of Heber Springs, Ark. – fell back on Sunday with rounds of 76 and 74. Lee and Rick Woulfe of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., sit one stroke back at even-par 144.
Another first-round leader, Patrick Tallent of Vienna, Va., had an afternoon starting time.
I just kept it in play and I putted well, said Thames, who survived a 10-for-1 playoff at his sectional qualifying site. I made all the short putts. When I missed a green, I got it up and down. Then at the end, I made a couple of birdies on two of the last three [holes].
Lutz came to Orlando off what he terms a very good year. He won this summer’s North & South Senior Amateur and the Sunnehanna Senior Amateur Championship. He also finished second to Paul Simson at the British Seniors Open Championship. A veteran of six USGA championships, Lutz advanced to the second round of match play at the 1998 U.S. Mid-Amateur.
My goal today was just to try and play steady and play a good round and try to set myself up to continue to play in the match-play format, said Lutz. I was pleased with the score.
Defending champion Marvin Vinny Giles of Richmond, Va., carded a 2-over 74 to finish at 6-over 150, which puts him in contention to make match play. The 2008 champion, George Buddy Marucci Jr. of Villanova, Pa., also sits at 150 after a 77. Marucci skipped last year’s championship because he was captaining the USA Walker Cup Team to victory at Merion Golf Club.
Stroke-play qualifying ends on Sunday, after which the low 64 scorers advance to match play that begins on Monday. Match play continues through Thursday’s 18-hole championship match.
The USGA Senior Amateur, open to golfers 55 and over, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.Christina Lance is the USGA’s coordinator of championship communications. E-mail her with questions or comments at email@example.com.