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Simson Wins USGA Senior Amateur
Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., became a two-time champion after he defeated Curtis Skinner of Lake Bluff, Ill., in the USGA Senior Amateur. The event was held at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J.
Simson, who won his first title two years ago, beat the 55-year-old Skinner, 4 & 3. Simson, who plays out of North Ridge Country Club, took his first lead on the par-3 seventh hole with a birdie and never relinquished the lead.
He added three more birdies en route to closing out the match on the 15th hole on the 6,838-yard, par-71 Donald Ross design.
Simson said later that his two victories Wednesday - over Stephen Sharpe and Jim Knoll - gave him a lot of momentum heading into Thursday's championship match. "(Wednesday) was probably the best two rounds of golf that I've ever put together in my life, other than maybe qualifying for the U. S. Open in 1998 where I was successful in the sectional qualifying at Sunny Hammond," he said.
After accepting his second Senior trophy, the 61-year-old met with reporters for the following interview. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: We welcome Paul Simson, the 2012 USGA Senior Amateur Champion. First of all, Paul we'd like to ask you how do you feel winning your second championship and becoming the 14th person to have won at least two USGA Senior Amateurs?
PAUL SIMSON: It's an undescribable feeling to win the first one, and to win the second one is I would call it more of a thrill than an honor. I was just so overcome the first time. But to win the second one was a real thrill. I don't think it was any easier. I think I played better this week than I did down on Lake Nona. I was really, really on fire up here. I played well at Lake Nona, but I played even better up here. Yesterday was probably the best two rounds of golf that I've ever put together in my life, other than maybe qualifying for the U. S. Open in 1998 where I was successful in the sectional qualifying at Sunny Hammond.
Q. Did you get any kind of a positive vibe from coming back to this area? Did that help you?
PAUL SIMSON: Well, I played Mountain Ridge quite a bit back in the late '60s when I played golf in school. And I remember the golf course as being a really fun place to play. And they've kept the fun in the upgrades even though it's been redone since I've played here. And we played a couple practice rounds, and the golf course really suited my game, and you know, it was a little bit longer than what we normally play. And I tend to hit the ball probably a little further than most seniors, so that does give me a little bit of an advantage. But I feel comfortable out here. My hometown is about 20minutes away. I grew up in (inaudible) and I was born in Summit. So you know, you always experience some travel trauma, I call it, wherever you go. But it was minimized this week because I was among friends.
Q. Have you played much USGA stuff in this part of New Jersey?
PAUL SIMSON: I don't think that there's been another I played a couple weeks ago down in Galloway. But I don't think that there oh, wait a minute. I did play the 1985 U.S. Amateur at Montclair, and I got to the round of I think 16 there.
Q. This was really your second time?
PAUL SIMSON: Yeah, I don't think there have been that many events here. I missed the Open. They didn't give me any (inaudible).
Q. Earlier you talked about this particular match today, getting up and down on 13 was a game opener.
PAUL SIMSON: Yes, it was. If you break down Match Play matches, it always seems to me that there is something critical that happens somewhere between 10 and 15 that really steps the tide, so to speak. And I had been playing very, very solidly and missed a tee ball and a second shot on that hole and had a fairly difficult short-sided bunker, up and down situation, and I did draw a pretty good lie. And so my buddy Jay Blumenfeld said, "show us some magic," and I saw that lie and I just started smiling because I knew I had a good chance to get that up and down. And when it flew up over the bunker and landed beyond the slope, I knew it was going to be a good shot. I thought for a second it might go in because it came very close to going in.
And that enabled me to extend a 3 up lead for another hole. And when you start getting to where your opponent is running out of territory to maneuver in, you know, we went from having six holes to play at 3 up to five holes to play at 3 up, and that's almost like a win at that point. And you know, that's a huge thing. And then I made a really good swing on 14 and got the ball in there about 20feet away, and he missed his shot, had maybe a 15 footer for birdie. But I tell you in Match Play you just never think they're not going to make it because they will. And so I really worked hard on that putt and basically took the putter out of his hand by making birdie there. It was a long par putt.
Q. What did you hit?
PAUL SIMSON: I hit a smooth 4 iron. It was going to be a smooth 5 iron or a smooth 4 iron, but I think the smooth 4 was a better choice of club.
Q. You were (inaudible) in match play.
PAUL SIMSON: Is that all?
Q. You had 36 straight holes between round of 16 and today's final without bogey.
PAUL SIMSON: Yeah. I was on fire. I really have been playing well. All summer I've had a leg issue in my left leg, and it has finally and I've been feeling it getting better in the last month or so. And I got into a few bad habits when you start protecting something, and I told Phillip, I said, this could be a special week. I've been feeling good about the way things are going, and I got here and started hitting a lot of solid golf shots. Then yesterday happened, which was just amazing.
Q. What do you mean a leg issue?
PAUL SIMSON: I had a pulled muscle in my left thigh that was just a nagging type of thing. And I had some massages and tried to lay off some of the weights and things like that. But it's improved dramatically where it's 100percent now. I'm ready to go.
Q. You thought it was difficult to play four, five, six days in a row of golf. Mentally draining. So how did you manage to get through this?
PAUL SIMSON: Well, I may be a little more used to it than he is. I played three USGA events the last four weeks. Played the Mid Am and made the Match Play and lost to Nathan Smith in the first round, which I like to tell people I lost in the second. (Laughs). And I was 2 under par against him. He just played a great match. And you know, with Match Play I bet just about all of my opponents can say, you know, they really played they didn't give it to me. They played decently and under different circumstances they might have won their matches. But I just have been playing so well that they just came out on the short side. And I've been on that side, too.
That's why Match Play is so difficult because you can run into somebody like me who's having a 7 under-par round and he shoots 1 under par, you're out. And I've had that happen to me before. And I'm very aware of that when I'm out there. Until they shake your hand, the match is not over.
Q. A lot of times when you go home, (inaudible) but this time it is for you. What do you think about that coming back to an area you grew up in and achieving what you did today?
PAUL SIMSON: We did a lot of special things this week. We went and saw the family cemetery plot, saw that club that I grew up at which is Fairmont. We went by all the old houses where I grew up and where I met my wife. I can't believe I played this much golf and you can't even talk. I got to see some old friends that I hadn't seen in 30 years. Pretty cool stuff.
Q. What is your wife's name?
PAUL SIMSON: Chris.
PAUL SIMSON: I met her coming off the ninth green. I proposed to her coming off the ninth green, and we had our wedding pictures taken just off the ninth green.
Q. (Inaudible). I guess maybe your grandparents were club champions.
PAUL SIMSON: Well, my great grandfather was a club champion at Madison Golf Club in 1909 and 1910. His name is Henry Firstwalker, and he was also club champion in 1917 at Newbrook. And I think my grandfather was also a club champion at Madison, but they can't find the records. I found some of the medals, but they can't find the records between 1917 and 1924. I have some medals that I've discovered going through some of my mom's things. So that's kind of neat that there is a heritage of good golf in our family.
Q. Good golf on your mom's side?
PAUL SIMSON: On my mom's side, yeah.
Q. Your mom was -
PAUL SIMSON: I was club champion in 1967 and 1969, and my mom was club champion in 1968. So Fairmont's been pretty good to us. We all started playing together.
Q. People who are over 35 or 40 or 45 are not the greatest athletes, and what can they take out of watching you go to work out on a golf course here time after time?
PAUL SIMSON: Well, you know, I'm very fortunate I have had I had some very good teachers when I first started playing, and for anybody who is just starting to play golf, they need to have good instruction. I have good basics. I get the club on the ball solidly a lot. And then I think the short game mostly comes from practice. When I was growing up, Fairmont would not let a junior out on the golf course before 4:00p.m. until they became like a 10 or 12 handicap and then you could go out with an adult. So I was pretty much confined to the practice range and the putting greens which I absolutely owned over there. Nobody could beat me. And so I learned a lot of good habits as far as short game and as far as how to play the game as well as etiquette over there.
A strong junior program at any club is a benefit now. My son Phillip went through a strong junior program at our club in Raleigh. And now he's a member. He becomes a legacy. Golf, they talk about sometimes declining rounds and everything. Part of it's our own fault. We need to provide strong junior programs through The First Tee and some of the other initiatives that the USGA has taken off spurring interest from folks that probably would not have been introduced to golf any other way.
PAUL SIMSON: Yes. University of New Mexico. They had an excellent golf course and a wonderful practice facility. They had a decent business program, and they had skiing which I also like.
Q. You never moved back to New Jersey?
PAUL SIMSON: No. My folks moved to Dallas in 1970 after my freshman year in school. From there I graduated, got married in Chatham. Moved to Dallas, and four years later in 1979 I was transferred to Raleigh. And I'll never forget, my father in law said, how damn lucky are you, here I'm working my whole life just so I can retire down there and you get transferred. (Laughs). And we've loved it there. I don't see us moving any time soon.
Q. Next year's event is in North Carolina.
PAUL SIMSON: Yes, it is. I've never played the course.
Q. Do you think you'll play the Am next year?
PAUL SIMSON: You know, you mentioned where it was, and I just might. We'll have to see how it fits into the schedule.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.