In the sixth playing of the George C. Thomas, Jr. Invitational the two defending champions lifted the trophy again after coming out on top at The Los Angeles Country Club. Scott Harvey from Greensboro, NC repeated as the mid-amateur division winner and Chip Lutz from Reading, PA did the same in the senior division. All three rounds of the tournament were played over the North Course at LACC that will host this year’s Walker Cup Matches and the 2023 US Open.
Despite only being started six years ago, the Thomas has become one of the premier mid-amateur and senior invitationals in the country. The classic venue brings top players from all over the country and that was even more true this year with the Walker Cup coming in September. This year’s field included eight USGA champions and six past Walker Cup players, names like Vinny Giles, Buddy Marucci, Duke Delcher, Kemp Richardson, Nathan Smith, Kevin Marsh, Mike McCoy, Scott Harvey, and Chip Lutz. In addition to past Walker Cup catpains Vinny Giles and Buddy Marucci, current Walker Cup captain Spider Miller was onsite to spend more time at the course and observe the competition.
Going in to the final round, Matt Broome from Jupiter, FL held a three shot lead in the mid-amateur division over Nathan Smith from Pittsburgh, PA while Chip Lutz held a slim one shot lead over Gene Elliott from West Des Moines, IA amongst the seniors.
Sitting five shots back in the mid-amateur division were two Thomas past-champions, Scott Harvey and Brad Shaw of Santa Monica, CA, and six shots back was Patrick Christovich from New Orleans, LA. Eventual champion Harvey struggled the first day after a freak accident to his toe made walking a challenge and pushing off his right side nearly impossible, but he felt better on day two and played his way back in to contention with the low round of the tournament, a four-under 67. Harvey still felt like he was in the mix going in to the final round saying that “five shots is a lot but on a big, tough golf course like that it’s easy to make mistakes and I felt a good solid round could give me a chance.”
Harvey was correct as second round leader Broome gave a few shots back to the field while others put together solid rounds. Harvey got word from specators that he was two back while playing the 14th hole and he responded by immediately birdieing 14 and 15 en route to a closing round of even par 70. Patrick Christovich who had been one stroke behind Harvey to start the day did one better with a one-under par 69 and both were in the clubhouse at four-over 215. Nathan Smith in the final pairing rounded out the threesome at 215 with his two-over 72 and set the stage for an exciting playoff for the second year in a row at the Thomas.
The senior division was also very competitive as the final pairing of Chip Lutz and Gene Elliott battled each other to the finish. Ultimately Lutz’s second consecutive round of 69 gave him a three shot victory over Elliott, while Grady Brame from Hammond, LA closed with a round of 70 to finish in third place. Past Concession Cup team members Bryan Norton from Mission Hills, KS and Brady Exber from Las Vegas, NV, as well as the Thomas tournament chairman John McClure from Austin, TX, all posted strong top-10 finishes.
Once all scores were posted, Christovich, Harvey, and Smith set out to play the first, second, and ninth holes in a three hole aggregate playoff. After the first two holes, Harvey and Smith stood at even par and were one ahead of Christovich. Facing a difficult, uphill par three with a tucked back left hole location, Harvey put himself in great position for a possible birdie hitting a six iron to six feet. With Smith in for par, Harvey knew he needed to make his putt for the victory and the significance of the moment was not lost on him. Here he was at one of the premier mid-amateur events held at a course he loves that’s also the host for this year’s Walker Cup, and the Captain of that team, Spider Miller, was in the gallery. He rolled it right in and afterward said “to do it that way, birdieing the last hole on the Walker Cup course with Spider watching on, felt really really good.”
Like many of the other top amateurs in the country, Harvey has set making the Walker Cup team as his primary goal. While balancing his career and family he has been working hard to play his way on to his second team and is putting together quite a record. In addition to winning the Thomas Invitational on the host course both of the past two years, Harvey was runner-up at last year’s US Mid-Amateur at Stonewall, qualified for this year’s US Open at Erin Hills, won this year’s Coleman Invitational at Seminole, tied for 5th at this year’s Azalea, and finished 13th while representing the USA at this year’s South American Amateur against a strong international field. The 2014 US Mid-Amateur champion and six-time consecutive Carolinas Golf Association Player of the Year has also been co-medalist at the US Mid-Amateur each of the past three years (and holds the record at four times overall). He sure is making a strong case for his inclusion and will keep working hard to prepare for the Porter Cup and US Amateur in hopes of having the opportunity to return to LACC in September wearing red, white, and blue.
The George C. Thomas, Jr. Invitational is played at The Los Angeles Country Club in Los Angeles, California. The North Course was redesigned by George Thomas during the 1920s and hosted the Los Angeles Open Tournament five times between then and 1940. The course was restored to Thomas’ original design principles by Gil Hanse during a five year project that concluded in 2010. Tournament Chairman John McClure gathered support in the club to start the Thomas Invitational in 2012 and it has become one of the premier mid-amateur and senior invitationals in the country.