Zahringer & Exber share the lead after Round 1 of the Seniors Open Amateur Championship

Brady ExberAiming to win the title for a third year in a row, Chip Lutz made an impressive start to the Seniors Open Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen with five birdies in a one under par 70 but it was fellow-Americans George Zahringer and Brady Exber (Pictured) who shared the first round lead on two under par 69.

Lutz was in a three-way tie for third alongside compatriot Patrick Tallent and Italy’s Federico Lang on a day that was sunny and calm before heavy rain made it tough for the late starters. 

Zahringer, a 2003 Walker Cup player from New York, had five birdies and his only real errors were a bogey at the 10th and a double-bogey at the 16th where he found trouble in the rough.

His birdies came from 15-feet at the 6th and then in a glittering run of four in a row from the 12th. The longest putt was a 20-footer at the 14th. 

The 2002 US Mid-Amateur Champion has a fine pedigree and has twice claimed the low amateur honours from eight appearances in the US Senior Open.

 “I played very patiently and I’m very pleased with the score,” said the Deepdale Golf Club member. “The key is keeping the ball in play and I only used my driver once all day.

“Conditions were good, but the first and ninth par fours were playing very long. I was hitting from 210 yards into the greens.”

Exber is from Las Vegas and he hit the jackpot with six birdies between the second and the 15th – but he also ran out of luck with a bogey, bogey finish. 

At the last, he hit into the gorse and had to declare the ball unplayable – “So it was actually quite a good bogey,” he conceded. 

“I hit 15 greens but I made a couple of silly mistakes and felt I should have scored better,” continued the plus two handicapper. “Today the weather and the course were absolutely beautiful and I didn’t really take advantage of the ideal conditions. But I really enjoyed the round.” 

Lutz, the winner at Royal Portrush in Ireland in 2011 and Machynys Peninsula in Wales last year, is hoping to complete his Celtic hat-trick with a win in Scotland.

By his own admission, the man from Pennsylvania made a shaky start. But he showed his class by picking up four shots on the back nine, all with putts from inside ten feet.

He started by dropping a shot at the first hole – an error he attributed to the pressures of defending the title.

“I was a bit fidgety and a bit unsettled going out as the two-time defending champion,” he said. “But then I calmed down and made a lot of good putts. Overall it was a decent day. My goal going out was to stay close to the lead.”

Paul Simson, the champion in 2006, 2008 and 2010, is the reigning US Senior Amateur Champion and he stayed within touch of the leaders after a three over par 74.

Garth McGimpsey (Bangor), who played in three Walker Cups and Captained Great Britain and Ireland on two occasions, was on level par 71 alongside yet another American, Stanley Kinsey.

“I dropped a shot at the last which was a bit disappointing,” said the man from Northern Ireland.  “But if you had offered me a 71 before I went out I would have bitten your hand off.

“I don’t really play too much these days, just some events on the senior circuit.” 

Kinsey finished in the pouring rain but the man from California was still delighted with the outcome. “It was beautiful until the last two holes,” he said. “The rest of the day was pretty still and calm and I really enjoyed it.

Full match details can be found at championships.randa.org.