Clauson, Fieger lead sweltering 48th Senior Amateur at Riverton
CINNAMINSON, N.J. â€” A pair of Christophers christened their names atop the 48th Senior Amateur Championship Tuesday at a sweltering Riverton Country Club (par 71, 6,386 yards).
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Lu Lu Country Clubâ€™s Christopher Clauson, runner-up in the rain-shortened event a year ago, and Philadelphia Publinks GAâ€™s Christopher Fieger, Sr., a Senior Division rookie, carded respective 3-under-par 68s to share the tournamentâ€™s 18-hole lead. Running Deer Golf Clubâ€™s Joseph Russo sits a shot back following a 2-under-par 69.
The trio will tee off tomorrow at 1:50 p.m.
â€śItâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve played well all year. It felt like the first time Iâ€™ve had control of my golf ball,â€ť Clauson, 62, of Philadelphia, Pa., said. â€śI took a lesson yesterday with Scott Yurgalevich at Lu Lu, the Polish prince, for a half hour, and it was the best lesson Iâ€™ve had in a long time. As far as instruction goes, Mike Dynda has helped me with my putting this year. He gave me a putter that he helped design called Neo Sync. Today, I drove the ball as well as I could drive it and made putts.â€ť
â€śThereâ€™s a lot of competition out here with a lot of great players. It feels good to put up a number, especially after the way I started,â€ť Fieger, 55, of Denver, Pa., said. â€śI try to teach my boys (Christopher, Jr. and Daniel) that you never give up; you hang in there. If you keep hitting quality shots, youâ€™re going to make some birdies. The greens were a little soft, but they were in great shape. You can make some putts out here.â€ť
Putts for red aplenty among the co-leaders â€” 11 birdies and an eagle to be exact.
The par 5, 476-yard 17th hole served as a launchpad for both. Clauson, who started on the back nine, stood at 2 over before powering a 3-wood greenside left. He then knocked a delicate chip to six feet for birdie â€” the first of three straight conversions. On No. 18 (par 4, 354 yards), Clauson lifted a wedge 106 yards to 25 feet and buried the uphill putt. A 90-yard wedge to 10 feet translated into a 3 on the next hole (par 4, 358 yards), too.
Fieger, who started on the front, slammed a 5-iron 190 yards to 12 feet on No. 17. He checked the line from both sides, addressed his golf ball and issued a fist pump once the eagle roll rattled in the bottom of the cup. The moment juxtaposed an aforementioned shaky start (bogey-bogey): ball in a divot on No. 1, three-putt on No. 2 (par 4, 383 yards).
A three-putt bogey on No. 15 (par 4, 414 yards) rounded out the rare Fieger miscues on this day. He inked four birdies in between. On No. 5 (par 4, 357 yards), Fieger, who won the Philadelphia Publinks GAâ€™s Philadelphia Open Amateur earlier this season, smacked a sand wedge 90 yards to six feet. A driver-rescue combination presented a straightforward chip shot â€” at least it seemed that way.
â€śI hit what I thought was a good chip shot, but all of the chip shots were hitting and just stopping. I was fortunate to make a 30-footer [for birdie] there,â€ť Fieger, who works in sales, said.
Fieger made it a back-to-back birdie affair by sending an 8-iron 160 yards to eight feet on No. 10 (par 4, 422 yards). He swept in a five-footer on the par 4, 382-yard 13th hole following a crisp pitching wedge from 126 yards.
A back-to-back birdie sequence also aided Clausonâ€™s quest Tuesday. Standing two shots back of Fieger at the time, he drilled a 9-iron 130 yards to the back of the No. 5 (par 4, 357 yards) green. Clauson barely touched a 15-footer, which subsequently snuck into the hole. â€śThe best 4-iron Iâ€™ve ever hitâ€ť resulted in a 15-footer for birdie on the par 3, 204-yard No. 6.
â€śIt was such a surprise to come out here and play well,â€ť Clauson, a contractor, said. â€śI donâ€™t have any expectations for tomorrow. The course is definitely gettable, depending on where [Golf Association of Philadelphia officials] put the flagsticks.â€ť
Whereas Clauson unearthed a competitive revelation in an otherwise tepid campaign, Fieger is in the midst of a steady Senior debut. He won the GAP Senior Four-Man Team alongside Buck Jones, Brian Rothaus and Jim Yenser and posted a Top-10 finish in the Pennsylvania Golf Associationâ€™s Senior Amateur Championship presented by LECOM.
â€śIâ€™ve been hitting the ball solid. My puttingâ€™s been up-and-down this summer,â€ť Fieger said. â€śIâ€™ll keep doing what Iâ€™m doing tomorrow. Fairways and greens are usually what my strength is.â€ť
Russo is within Senior Amateur striking distance and in the Senior Silver Cross Award lead. He holds a three-stroke lead over two-time reigning winner Glenn Smeraglio of Lu Lu Country Club entering the final leg. The Senior Silver Cross Award is presented to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the Francis B. Warner Cup (Gross), Frank H. Chapman Cup (Gross) and Senior Amateur Championship.
â€śFortunately, I drove the ball phenomenal all day. I drove it long. I drove it straight,â€ť Russo, 60, of Washington Township, N.J., said. â€śIf I could just do the same thing I did today â€” I only missed two greens, then Iâ€™ll be in good shape.â€ť
NOTES â€” The Springhaven Clubâ€™s Rich Thon aced the par 3, 154-yard 16th hole with a choke-down 5-iron. It marked his third career hole-in-one and second in a GAP competition (No. 8 at White Manor Country Club during the 2011 Joseph H. Patterson Cup).
Golf Association of Philadelphia