Like a fine California cabernet, Paul Simson keeps getting better with age.
Simson, the 2010 and 2012 U.S. Senior Amateur champion, was at it again last week at the magnificent Kittansett Club in Marion, Massachusetts. At 71, he easily advanced to match play and then, for the 14th time in as many tries since he became Senior Amateur-eligible, he won his first-round match. Said differently, every time Simson has advanced to match play at the Senior Amateur, he has won his first match.
That is an unprecedented accomplishment.
“I seem to focus pretty well in match play and I am able to dig down deep, and that’s what you have to do. You just fight every hole.” – Paul Simson
Simson played poorly on the front nine in his first match against Buddy Allen, but he rallied on the inward side, playing the final nine holes in 1-under par. He capped it off by holing a 42-foot birdie on the final hole to advance.
His second-round match, against Massachusetts favorite son Frank Vana, was one for the ages. Vana birdied the first, but Simson won the second to even the match. That sequencing would take place three more times. Vana would win a hole, Simson the next. On 15, the trend reversed itself; Simson won the hole to go 1-up, but Vana took 16 and the match was back to tied. Simson won 17 with a par, and when both players bogeyed 18, Simson moved on to the round of 16.
That is where his run ended, in an equally tight match against eventual champion Rusty Strawn, which took 19 holes to settle. Had Simson won, he would have been the oldest quarterfinalist in 35 years. Simson was 2-up through 12 holes, but Strawn won three straight holes to grab a 1-up lead after 16. Shockingly, both made triple-bogey 7s on 17 before Simson sank an 8-foot birdie on 18 to send the match to overtime. A poor drive on the 19th led to a bogey and the end of his tournament.
Likely speaking for the entire amateur community, Strawn said afterward, “Obviously, Paul is a legend, and to have the opportunity to play against him is an honor.”
Simson, of Raleigh, North Carolina, is legendary in American golf and is also enshrined in the North Carolina Sports Hall Of Fame. He has won everything worth winning in the Carolinas more than once, and is the first person to win the U.S. Senior Amateur, the British Senior Amateur and the Canadian Senior Amateur in the same year. He prides himself on a stout short game, once saying, “It’s what you do once you arrive (after the drive) that determines the men from the boys.”
What is Simson’s match-play secret? He told the USGA, “I seem to focus pretty well in match play and I am able to dig down deep, and that’s what you have to do. You just fight every hole.”
This was Simson’s 66th USGA appearance and his 15th U.S. Senior Amateur berth. Expect both of those numbers to continue to grow.
Top: Paul Simson’s bid to become the oldest U.S. Senior Amateur quarterfinalist fell just short. Photo: Kathryn Riley, USGA
© 2022 Global Golf Post LLC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?