When you talk about guys who are dominating the local golf scene, it’s hard not to notice Andrew Mason, the 23-year-old from Huntingdon Valley CC who has pulled off back-to-back wins in the Philadelphia Open and the Pennsylvania Amateur.
It’s even harder not to notice another guy is who more than twice Mason’s age, Chip Lutz.
Lutz, 57, from Reading, a founding member of LedgeRock GC and a member of GAP’s executive committee, is in the midst of one of the most impressive runs by an amateur golfer that we’ve seen in years. The fact that he is having it now, in what easily could be the twilight of his career, is a testament to Lutz’s life choices, his priorities, personality and his determination to enjoy the success he never quite had as a younger man.
Since turning 55 in January 2010, Lutz has been named Senior Player of the Year back-to-back in 2010 and 2011, locally and nationally; he’s a shoo-in to win a third straight GAP Senior POY.
Internationally, Lutz recently defended his title in the British Senior Amateur (he was runner-up in 2010), which came the week after he was the low amateur in the British Senior Open. This month he will defend his title in the Canadian Senior Amateur.
Add to that a slew of titles such as the Golfweek Senior National Championship, the International Four-Ball, Society of the Seniors Spring Classic, the Trans-Mississippi, the North and South Senior and the Sunnehanna Senior, and you begin to get the picture.
“I don’t know what’s happening but I am playing better golf now than I ever have played,” Lutz said last week, after shooting 67 at Huntingdon Valley CC at the Hyndman Memorial. “I just hope I can keep it up.”
Growing up at Reading CC, Lutz learned the game from his dad, Buddy, winner of the Sunnehanna Invitational in 1947 and ’49. His family was so golf-crazy that he and his brothers who are all named John – answer to the lifelong nicknames of “Wedge,” “Chip” and “Putt.” Seriously, you’d have to say Chip lucked out there.
In 1972, he earned a spot on the University of Florida golf team that included Andy Bean, Gary Koch, Andy North, Fred Ridley, Steve Smyers and Phil Hancock – a group that includes PGA Tour players, a U.S. Open winner and a U.S. Amateur Champion. Good luck standing out in that crowd. After two years, Lutz quit the team to concentrate on his studies.
“I should have transferred if I was serious about playing, but I wasn’t,” said Lutz.
After graduating in 1976, Lutz returned to Reading and went into the title insurance business. Between 1979 and 1993, he won nine Berks County Amateur titles; in 1977, he made his only early mark as a GAP competitor, winning the Amateur Championship.
It wasn’t long before Lutz was married, raising two kids (Jordan and Jenna) with wife Bonnie and running his own company. As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he enrolled in law school at the University of Delaware and spent the next four years commuting nights.
During that period, as he built his business and raised his kids, Lutz pretty much quit playing for five years.
“It was a time when golf wasn’t very important to me,” he said.
Lutz made a kind of return to the game in 1998, winning the first of two GAP Mid-Am titles (the other was in ‘07).
“That (Mid-Am) in ’98 got me excited about competitive golf again,” he said. “I started playing in some of the invitational events and I had a nice run, but I really didn’t have time and focus to excel.”
But by then, Lutz was in his mid-40s, competing against 25-year-olds who were bombing it 30 yards past him. He spent the next few years in the limbo zone, sort of like a 48-year-old PGA Tour player waiting to turn 50 so he can cash in on the Champions Tour.
In amateur golf, however, you don’t become a senior until you reach 55. When he did, Lutz hoped he would be ready.
“I knew when I turned 55, I would have a unique opportunity,” he said. “I just hoped my competitive nature and my game would come back, and it has.”
Not even Lutz can explain what has come over him. His game always has been one of consistency, few mistakes, hitting fairways and greens. For the past couple of years, his putting has been helped by going to the long putter, which he fears the USGA is about to outlaw.
“I’ll take it as long as I can,” he said.
If Lutz is baffled by his newfound success, so are his friends.
“They are a bit mystified,” he said, laughing. “They ask, ‘How are you doing this? What’s going on?’ And I don’t have an explanation. I don’t know how long it will last but it has been one hell of a ride.”
If there is a title missing from his resume, it is a U.S. Senior Amateur. He lost in the semifinals last year. This year, he wants it badly, although he believes his chances would be better in a stroke-play format rather than match-play.
If Lutz has a golfing bucket list, he won’t reveal it. He is winning the tournaments he wanted to win, he is traveling the world playing golf, he has been a member of Pine Valley for more than 30 years and he has never met a golf course he didn’t love. It’s all too good.