U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Meet the Simsons, Who Shared Another Special Week
August 31, 2017 | Minneapolis, Minn.
By Dave Shedloski
Paul Simson would tell Mark Twain that golf, even in the midst of disappointment, is never “a good walk spoiled.” Not when you do it his way, with his son by his side, sharing hugs and laughs and moments.
They wanted to share another win, too. And in their own way, they did.
Simson struggled with his game in the final of the 63rd U.S. Senior Amateur Championship on Thursday morning and fell to steady Sean Knapp, 2 and 1, at The Minikahda Club. A two-time winner of this championship, in 2010 and 2012, Simson wouldn’t deny that the loss hurt, but you wouldn’t know it as he and his son Phillip, his only child, smiled and embraced by the scoreboard behind the first tee after the medals had been awarded and the speeches made and officials, staff and fans had cleared out.
Loss? What loss? The two, who live nine doors down from each other in Raleigh, N.C., gained another memory and the chance to add others with the exemptions Simson earned into the U.S. Mid-Amateur in October, and next year’s U.S. Amateur and U.S. Senior Open.
Not that their personal scrapbook isn’t already overflowing. Phillip, 36, who manages his own promotional business, has been caddieing for his father since he was 12 years old. They have teamed up for seven U.S. Senior Opens, 11 U.S. Senior Amateurs and the 1998 U.S. Open, as well as countless other state championships.
Then there are the three Carolinas Father-Son Championship titles they won together. “That’s not North Carolina, but the Carolinas,” Paul said. “And those are tough to win.”
With a 2-year-old son and a daughter on the way in October, Phillip has seen his scratch game inch up to a 2 handicap. His prowess as a golfer and his knowledge of his father’s game was instrumental in their run to the final less than three years after Paul, 66, had recovered from a serious post-operative infection in his sternum.
Phillip noticed on the practice tee prior to Saturday’s opening round of stroke play that his father was taking the club too far to the inside on his takeaway. “It was pretty obvious it was getting a little flat, and he was coming over the top to correct it,” the younger Simson said.
The elder Simson proceeded to shoot 1-under 143 to be seeded seventh in the 64-man match-play draw, and then he enjoyed a series of head-to-head victories, including blowouts in the quarters and semis, until Knapp stymied him with a series of par saves in the final.
“I don’t know where I would have been without him,” Paul said of his son. “Obviously, he knows my swing, and he really helped me early on. He knows when I need a nudge to get going and knows when I need to slow down a little bit. He’s a great help keeping me focused on the next shot. It would not be the same without him with me, and that goes beyond helping my golf.”
Their day started with their traditional hug on the first tee and a fist bump. And then Paul proceeded to birdie the first hole by sinking a 6-footer. But he couldn’t sustain any momentum. Six bogeys and a double bogey nullified his four birdies.
“I just didn’t have my A game today,” he said. “But there are around 3,000 guys who entered who would have cut off their arm to be in this position. I wish I would have given him a better game, but Sean is a fine champion, a good player. Getting to the final again, that’s still darn good.”
“I’m really proud of him,” Phillip said. “We’re very close. Of course he wanted to win today, but he competed really hard. I admire his golf. He has a lot of tenacity. But I admire his character more. You know, he had that health scare, and you learn that you never know how many of these you’re going to have together. So every one of them is special.”
Phillip then looked at his father and said simply, “Dad, I know we wanted to win, but we had a hell of a week, didn’t we?”
“We had a hell of a week,” Dad replied, nodding and smiling.
He put his hand on his son’s shoulder.
Yeah, a hell of a week.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.