Thirteen USGA champions began the week at the Country Club of Detroit for the 66th U.S. Senior Amateur. Just one remains.
Chip Lutz, the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur champion, won a pair of matches on Tuesday to earn a spot in the quarterfinals for the sixth time in 11 championship starts.
Lutz, who hasn’t had a match go beyond the 16th hole in the first three rounds, defeated Eddie Hargett 3&2, after knocking off Jim Muething, of Cincinnati, Ohio, 6&5, in the Round of 32 in the morning.
Lutz, the No.2 seed, will take on a familiar face in Wednesday’s quarterfinals: Craig Davis, who defeated Lewis Stephenson 3&2, in the Round of 16 on Tuesday, lost to Lutz in the 2018 quarterfinals 1-up.
“I try not to pay too much attention [to the other results] because everybody is a good player at this level,” said Lutz, who upped his Senior Amateur match-play record to 28-9. “I try not to think about mapping [my bracket] out or seeing who is in front of you because things change so quickly.”
Lutz and Davis are joined in the final eight by Rusty Strawn; Jerry Gunthorpe; Dave Bunker; 2021 U.S. Senior Open low amateur Billy Mitchell; Tom Gieselman and Gene Elliott.
Two remaining local Michigan golfers are hoping to continue the momentum of James Piot, a Michigan State standout who won the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club two weeks ago.
Gieselman, a member of nearby Oakland Hills Country Club, had a number of friends, family and club members following his Round of 16 match, a 1-up win over Joe Jaspers. He walked off the 18th green Tuesday afternoon to a loud ovation. Earlier in the day, Jaspers knocked out third seed and 2017 champion Sean Knapp 2&1.
Gunthorpe, competing in just his second USGA championship, eliminated James Scorse 4&3, in the Round of 16 after a tight 1-up win over Brad Wayment in the morning.
Elliott might have had the most challenging day of the eight. In the morning, he needed 19 holes to oust his good friend and fellow Iowan, Michael McCoy. The two Iowa Golf Hall of Famers have competed in a combined 100 USGA championships and won 15 Iowa Player of the Year awards.
Elliott converted an 18-foot par putt on the 18th hole to force extra holes after short-siding himself in a bunker with his approach. On the first extra hole, he stuffed his approach to two feet and was conceded the birdie after McCoy, the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, missed his long attempt.
In the Round of 16 on Tuesday afternoon, Elliott, a veteran of 36 USGA championship who won this year’s British Seniors Amateur, had to face 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Doug Hanzel, who owns a 22-7 match-play mark in eight starts.
Elliott finally seized control of a nip-and-tuck match with a winning par on the 181-yard, par-3 13th hole and closed the match with five consecutive pars, including a two-putt from 20 feet on the 420-yard 18th. Hanzel played most of the match with an ailing left hip sustained early in the round.
“Mike McCoy is tough as nails and so is Doug Hanzel,” said Elliott. “You just have to get some breaks. I made some mistakes, they made some mistakes. I thought I was toast on 18 against Mike. It was a long day, but a great day.”
Strawn also appeared to be eliminated by Jim Lehman, the older brother of 1996 Open champion Tom. Lehman was 2-up with two to play, but lost the par-5 17th to a Strawn birdie and missed a six-foot par putt on 18 that would have sent him to the quarters. Three holes later, Strawn prevailed by holing a 15-foot birdie putt.
Strawn will face Gunthorpe in the first quarterfinal match, while Bunker meets Mitchell, the low amateur in the 2021 U.S. Senior Open who eliminated defending champion and fellow Georgian Bob Royak in the Round of 32, 1-up, and then took out Tim Peterson 4&3.
Bunker, the only international golfer to make match play, defeated last-minute alternate Daniel Russo 4&3, to reach his first-ever USGA quarterfinal.