As an amateur our goals are quite different than the pros when we are lucky enough to get into a professional major event. In the UK the two major pro events the British Open or here just called “The Open”, and the British Senior Open here just called “Senior Open” you have two Silver Medals a year given to the amateur whom makes the cut and is low amateur.
The past two years NO amateur has made the cut in the Senior Open, thus a gap in anyone getting this high honor. This year 7 amateurs made it into the field through the qualifiers, plus Chip Lutz being exempted into the main event with his Senior Amateur Championship victory last year at Formby. So the stage was set, and after two rounds, it was Chip and I left in for the last two rounds, and the battle for the Silver. One of us is getting it on the 18th green on Sunday afternoon with the Champion, and MORE importantly an exemption into next years event at “The Old Course”.
I am sure Chip feels the same way about playing in this event at St Andrews, the home of golf, where it all started. So the pressure was up, and the game was on. After my very poor 82 on Friday I just snuck onto the cut line and trailed Chip by 4 shots. On the best day we had for scoring I again fell further behind with a poorly executed round on 76 on Saturday, moving day. While Chip had a solid 71, putting me 9 back going into the final round.
Because of horrible weather expected to hit on Sunday afternoon, the R&A decided to use split tees 1&10 and get all the players off in groups of 3, in hope of finishing before the inclement weather hit the shores of Royal Porthcawl. Because I was way back, I actually had a late tee time off #10, while Chip went early off #1.
I got off to a decent start with a par saving putt on my first hole out #10, and followed it up with back to back birdies on 11 & 12. The par 5 13th hole was reachable from the front tee, but I struggled everyday with this tee shot and arm guided a drive in the right side of the fairway to far back to go for the green in two. I did decide to still hit three medal, which I did nicely leaving me 80 yards to a back right pin. Again I hit a poor shot on the green 30 feet short, and missed badly my first lag putt. After back to back birdies and being 9 shots back, you cannot afford any dropped shots to 3 putt greens. But sadly I walked off with my 3rd bogey on this very much so a birdie hole. So I was very upset at myself, but followed it with a stellar drive on the very tough 14th hole, and made a very solid par. Again on 15 I let the wind take my ball right of the green into some very heavy rough. Another par saving putt kept me at -1 on this nine, and perhaps still a chance.
The 16th hole is one of the longest and toughest par 4’s on the course. It plays downhill off the tee, and then back up to a very narrow green that leaves any mishit shots in serious doubt of making a par. On this final round I striped a drive, followed by a superb 6 iron to 20 feet. I then used some wind brake to navigate this putt down for a very unlikely birdie 3, and back to -2 on this nine.
The 17th hole is no bargain either, and plays uphill with a stern cross wind hard left to right. I again made a very important par, leaving me the gettable down wind par 5 18th hole. There is always a wait on this tee box as the group ahead waits for the group ahead to clear the green. Since I knew we had at least 5 minutes, I decided to pull out my mobile phone to check how my good pal Chip was doing in his round. I expected nothing less than a strong last round from this tough champion, but to my surprise I kept scrolling all the way past me at +16 total to find him +17 after 14, with some very tough holes left. I will always second guess the decision to look at his score, as now the pressure increased substantially.
I hit a very strong drive on the 18th hole, and went into the green with a 7 iron which i hit poorly and short of the green. I had a very tough pitch to a back left pin. At first after I struck the shot I didn’t know how to root for it to go or stop….but it did stop about 6 inches from the cup, ending this 9 holes in -3, and at the time a 2 shot lead on Mr. Lutz.
The feeling on the 1st tee was not like all the other days when I stripped a drive down the middle of this very tough driving hole. On this day I hit an up and out shot way right into the high rough. This is where I began a series of QUICK and poor decisions, that ended in a triple bogey 7 and an end to the dream of capturing this Silver Medal, and a chance to play St Andrews next year. Its been a theme in my game for some time now, not being able to close out good rounds that are going well.
I can only learn from these mistakes (or I hope too) but its not very often you get this kind of opportunity. Chip is a proven winner, and is masterful at closing out rounds’ and events. His record is now perhaps one of the best in History of Senior amateur golf.
I’ve got another shot at it this week in the Senior Amateur at the amazing Sunningdale Golf Club starting this Wednesday with three rounds of stroke play.
STAY TUNED FOR COVERAGE FROM SUNNINGDALE