Ask 69-year old Paul Simson how many golf tournaments he has won and he laughs.
The number is somewhere north of 200 but he lost count a while ago.
“I used to tell my son when he wanted to read the paper about what we’d done yesterday that was history. The challenge is today,” said Simson, who is chasing another title in the inaugural Society of Seniors super senior national championship this week at Forest Creek Golf Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
Push Simson a little about the trophies he’s collected and he will admit he has 60 or more at his home in Raleigh, many of them in the family room and a few others in the scotch room he created years ago when he developed an appreciation of single malts through the friends he met playing golf overseas.
Among the collection are a record 39 wins in Carolinas Golf Association events, nine North & South Amateur titles in various divisions and two U.S. Senior Amateur victories (2010 and 2012). He also won the British and Canadian Senior Amateur titles in 2010.
Throw in a dozen club championships at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh and that’s fewer than a third of the career wins for a guy who has never been particularly long but has a gift for scoring in the same way Steven Spielberg has a gift for storytelling.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done but I’m not done,” Simson said.
“I go to every event trying to win. I’m realistic when you’re playing guys hitting it 100 yards past you but if my game is really on, I can be a real bother.”
Like a rock in a shoe.
“Maintaining a good attitude is paramount to playing good golf on a consistent basis. If you look at tour players and the better amateurs, the guys who remain positive and don’t get down on themselves, they fare far better in the long run.” – Paul Simson
Simson, who still works at his insurance business in Raleigh, continues to play a busy tournament schedule though the pandemic disrupted the spring and summer. Since tournament play has resumed, Simson picked up a North & South Senior title and the Carolinas Super Senior title, leading him into the new national championship event an hour from his home.
The age group, Simson said, needed a new national event like the one he’s playing this week. With more attention to exercise and health, more players are staying competitive longer.
“People are playing better, not only because of conditioning but technology has helped tremendously. We have ways to maintain swing speeds and ways to measure it, so folks know what works for them,” Simson said.
What launch monitors and club fittings can’t calculate is attitude. In Simson’s case, it may be what has separated him through the years.
“Maintaining a good attitude is paramount to playing good golf on a consistent basis,” said Simson, who has played in nearly 70 USGA championships. “If you look at tour players and the better amateurs, the guys who remain positive and don’t get down on themselves, they fare far better in the long run.
“If you think a cloud is over your head and it’s always raining, you generally don’t perform as well as you could.”
Born in Chatham, New Jersey, Simson was a walk-on golfer at the University of New Mexico who eventually earned All-American honors his senior year. He played the mini-tours for a while and came within one stroke of qualifying for the PGA Tour before regaining his amateur status in 1978.
He moved to Raleigh a year later and set about becoming one of the most accomplished amateurs in the country.
“I’ve been blessed with a swing that seems to stay consistent,” Simson said. “It doesn’t require much maintenance. It’s pretty simple. For my size and age group, I’m still in the top 25 percent (in distance) and I’ve always had a good short game.
“When things are not going well, I can scramble and at least maintain contact with the field until I figure out what’s going on.
“I’ve discovered ‘the secret’ at least 30,000 times. It may only last one or two rounds but it’s the same thing. When you’re playing well, you wonder how you could ever play poorly and it goes the other way, too. I suffer those calamities like all the others but maybe my ups and downs are not as great as the others.”
Speaking of ups and downs, when golf season slows down in the winter, Simson goes skiing. He used to make annual trips to Europe to ski but now he goes to Colorado to feed his 50-year love of the sport.
Skiing, Simson said, keeps his legs strong which has helped his golf game over the years.
Simson will be in a new role in November when he and Tim Jackson captain the East squad in the East-West Matches at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas. Jim Holtgrieve and Kevin Marsh will captain the West team in a competition that gathers many of the top mid-amateurs and senior amateurs as well as a couple current collegians on each side. Simson’s 18-man East team includes Jeff Knox, Scott Harvey, Matt Parziale, Tyler Strafaci and John Pak.
As a captain, Simson will use his experience to help others where he can.
“A lot of times amateurs beat themselves instead of getting beat by other people. They don’t say that about the pros,” Simson said.
“For seniors and mid-ams, the same principles apply – try not to take yourself out of the game. If you can just hang in there, a lot of people will take themselves out.”
Simson has the trophies to prove it.
Top: Paul Simson says his swing “doesn’t require much maintenance.” Photo: Chris Keane, Copyright USGA
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