Monday: Putters Rule at the 2016 US Senior Amateur

13th hole, Old Warson CC (Photo courtesy of Jim Healey)

St. Louis, Mo.

The often-broken rule of sports journalism is that writers should never take sides. They should never root for a team or individual in competition. They should remain objective.

To which I have to say: Go Ducks. I am a longtime Oregonian, and invariably I cheer for the University of Oregon.

Here at the U.S. Senior Amateur, I admit I was rooting Monday for Pat O’Donnell of Happy Valley, Oregon. O’Donnell was playing against Randy Lewis of Alma, Mich., in the first round of match play at Old Warson Country Club.

Here’s my reasoning: O’Donnell and I live close to each other in Happy Valley, so rooting for him was the neighborly thing to do.

O’Donnell is a terrific ballstriker, although his putting is questionable. After Lewis beat him 2 up, O’Donnell said quietly, “I really needed to make a couple of those putts.”

Truer words were never spoken. While O’Donnell was missing wide right and wide left,

Pat O'Donnell
Pat O’Donnell (Photo by Jim Achenbach)

Lewis was putting like a crazy man. Despite being outplayed by O’Donnell, Lewis displayed unmatched touch on the greens.

Lewis has done this before. In 2011, he astoundingly won the U.S. Mid-Amateur at the age of 54. Here at Old Warson, he thrashed O’Donnell on the greens.

“Some days I putt really well,” observed O’Donnell, who lost in the final of 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur to Doug Hanzel, “but other days I am really average.”

When playing for a national championship, average doesn’t get it. “I probably should look for a putting instructor,” O’Donnell admitted.

Golfers think nothing of taking full-swing lessons, but they seldom take putting lessons. Now that’s a big mistake.

Pat Tallent, a 2 and 1 winner over Buddy Marucci in a battle of former U.S. Senior Amateur champions, didn’t hold back his feelings: “You better have an excellent short game, or you won’t last long out here (on the national senior amateur circuit). Whatever it takes to improve, you have to do it. You have to learn to get the ball in the hole. Concentrate on getting better. You have no choice if you want to be competitive. I don’t think there has ever been a really good senior player without a great short game.”

Chip Lutz, the defending Senior Amateur champion, was forced to adopt a new putting technique this year after the U.S. Golf Association banned anchoring.

Lutz, a native of Reading, Pa., was a 2 and 1 victor over Jeff Burda in the first round. He talked candidly about his recent putting adventures: “I tried a 38-inch counterbalanced putter, and that didn’t work out for me. I went to an unanchored long putter, but it just seemd a little wiggly. Now I’m using a conventional 35-inch Scott Cameron. It’s a Tour Only (model), and I am putting pretty well. I use a version of the claw grip. I was 4-under today on the front (nine) and missed a couple of others that I could have made.”

When it comes to putting, perhaps all of us should break a rule and root loudly and enthusiastically for ourselves.

—James Achenbach, Senior Golf Insider

For Match-Play results click here:–senior-amateur/scoring.html