Raman Luthra knew what the rest of the field would be doing. He knew they would be pushing for birdies, attempting to put pressure on the defending champion who entered the final day with a seven-stroke lead.
But Luthra’s biggest competition wasn’t with the other players. It was with himself. It was about making sure he didn’t get sucked in to the gamesmanship. It was about having his plan and staying with his plan, even through his worst round of the tournament.
On Saturday at Crag Burn, he shot a five-over 77, but he came away with another Buffalo District Golf Association Men’s Individual Championship title.
“I played very conservative. I picked my spots,” Luthra said. “I hit the ball probably as well as I did the rest of the tournament but didn’t putt as well. I had a couple three-putts on the front nine.
“These guys were obviously trying to make a push and I just don’t deviate from what I set out as a strategy. I wasn’t looking to shoot the lowest score of the tournament today. I was just looking to get into the house. Sometimes when you’re leading by six or seven, you can be your own worst enemy. I just tried to play very conservative, hit a lot of middle of the green, two-putt pars, low stress.”
Luthra set himself up for a low-stress final round by shooting a 67 in Thursday’s first round and a 69 on Friday to enter the final day eight under for the tournament and seven strokes ahead of Tony Hejna.
Hejna made a push on the toughest part of the Crag Burn course, holes 4 through 7, but Luthra stuck with his approach even as the course played long on Saturday. There is plenty of trouble to find at Crag Burn with its trees, heather and bunkers not to mention the wind on a gusty day. But on his home course, Luthra used his familiarity to his advantage.
“I’ve played this golf course enough times to know there’s trouble everywhere,” Luthra said. “Guys are going to three-putt. Guys are going to make bogeys. You just have to stay patient out there. I shoot 75 or 76 out here all the time. It’s not an easy golf course.
“I think there was definitely a little bit of an advantage knowing the golf course, knowing how it plays, knowing what pins are accessible and which aren’t. In terms of the other guys, I figured I was going to be the one to get in my own way. … I set my target number at 77. If somebody shoots 69 to beat me, they shoot 69 to beat me.”
No one shot a 69 on Saturday. The best round of the day was turned in by Thad Wier, who shot an even 72 to tie for second place with Jonathan Clark. Wier and Clark both finished with three-day totals of 218.
Hejna ran into trouble on the back nine and finished with a round of 77 to take fourth at 220.
Luthra was the only player under par for the championship, carding a three-under total of 213 (67-69-77).
It was the third BDGA title of the season. He won the BDGA Tournament of Champions in June and followed that up by winning his second straight BDGA Men’s Mid-Amateur in July.
Then he took on the challenge of the Porter Cup two weeks ago to disappointing results. He finished tied for 78th, shooting 17 over for his four-round total of 297 (80-72-73-72). That was humbling but more than that, a quality learning experience that helped Luthra this weekend.
“I certainly think I’m a better player than I was last year,” Luthra said. “I would have to say that the Porter Cup was pretty disappointing, but it taught me a lot about my golf game. It told me what I needed to work on and that definitely helped today. … I got out of position at the Porter Cup quite a few times and I think I’ve learned from that.
“When you’re playing in a tournament like the Porter Cup, you want to try to make tons of birdies on every hole and you know, that’s not how I play golf. I don’t play that way. It taught me to go back to the basics, to try and play my pattern of golf. But hopefully I’ll get another chance to compete in that down the road and just continue to get better.”