BIRMINGHAM, AL – A late-blooming senior champion who delights in often beating the “flat bellies” has been selected to the prestigious Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame.
Paul Simson, 61, a Raleigh, N.C., insurance executive with some 200 overall amateur golf titles, will be formally inducted into the SGA Hall in mid-July on the eve of the 106th Southern Amateur Championship at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock. The next day, he will begin competing in the Southern Am against a field comprised mostly of collegiate stars less than half his age. With his trademark composure and silky short game, Simson is a sure bet to surprise some of those “flat bellies.”
He nearly beat all of the “kids” in 1995 when he finished second in the Southern Am at age 44.
The SGA does not induct a new Hall of Fame member each year, but rather acts only when a person deemed of genuine merit has earned the rare honor. Simson will be just the 23rd inductee in the 40 years since the SGA Hall of Fame was established. The most recent, in 2006, was Hubert Green, who won the Southern Am twice before becoming a major champion on the PGA Tour.
Simson recognizes the high honor. “This will be the biggest thrill in my golf life,” he says.
In a brief fling on the PGA Tour in the early ‘70s, Simson won money but didn’t like the travel. So he resumed his insurance career and regained his amateur status in 1978, launching a stunning amateur career. He twice won the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst, etching his name alongside such winners as Jack Nicklaus and Davis Love and earning a “locker in perpetuity” at legendary Pinehurst No. 2.
As a senior, he has won the U.S., Canadian and British Senior Amateurs, the latter three times and is the only player in history to hold all three of those titles at the same time. Last month, he tied storied amateur Dale Morey’s record of 24 victories in Carolinas Golf Association tournaments by teaming with partner Don Detweiler to storm the CGA Senior 4-Ball by seven strokes over the field, their 190 total lowering the tournament record by three strokes. In the third and final round of that event, Simson posted a blistering 10-under-par 62 on his own ball -- 10 birdies, 8 pars -- at the Governor’s Club in Chapel Hill to assure his third title in that event. Three weeks later, he moved ahead of Morey with his record 25th CGA championship by successfully defending his title in the North Carolina Senior Amateur. In that event, he fought back from a slow start to force a playoff which he won with a birdie on the second extra hole.
The 62 at Governor's Club was the second time Simson shot 62 in competition, having done so en route to winning the 1990 Carolinas Amateur. In social rounds, he set his home club course records with 60s on both the Lakes and Oaks courses at North Ridge C.C., in Raleigh.
Simson is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and was voted 2007 World Senior Player of the Year by Golfweek. He and Chris, his wife of 37 years, still reside in Raleigh.