DEAL, England (Aug. 8, 2008)--A putting tip from his wife helped Paul Simson to win the 40th Seniors Open Amateur Championship and claim the title for the second time in three years.
The 57-year-old Raleigh native, who is currently leading the amateurgolf.com - Bridgestone Golf Senior Player of the Year chase, went without a three-putt over the last 36 holes and closed with a two-under 70 for a one-over total at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal.
Simson won by two strokes over England’s Chris Reynolds, who produced the best round of the week with a 69 after coming home in 31. Third-round leader Graham Cooke, from Canada, slipped to a 77 to take third place at 5-over, one ahead of Americans Rick Woulfe and Jay Blumenfeld.
It is the eighth time in ten years the trophy has gone to the States. Simson earns an exemption for next year’s Senior Open Championship at Sunningdale as well as for next month’s US Seniors Amateur, for which he had not already qualified.
“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am,” Simson said. “The first win two years ago was an honour but this is a real thrill. And I am looking forward to Sunningdale already. I have friends who are members there and it is a great course.”
It was after an opening 75 that Simson’s “bride of 33 years”, Chris, told him what to do with his putting.
“My putting on the first day was very uncharacteristic, lots of three putts, and that evening Chris said my putting stroke looked jerky and I needed to smooth it out," he said. "I birdied the first two holes the next morning and I never had a three-putt again the last two days so I owe this win to her.”
Simson birdied the opening hole but a severe rain storm then hit the course. He bogeyed the second but got birdies back at the third and the sixth, where he holed from 40 feet, before his last bogey at the ninth. That was the only hole where he was not on the green in regulation.
With the wind switching to a northerly so the last seven holes played downwind, Simson played incredibly solid golf. He hit a wedge to four feet at the 13th hole for his only birdie of the back nine but was hardly ever out of position.
Simson’s record in this championship now reads, first, fifth, first, added to which he was the runner-up at the last ever British Mid-Amateur last year.
“I love playing golf over here,” he said. “It takes so much more skill to play the ball on the ground as you have to on these courses. It’s not about hitting the ball the furthest, you have to be accurate and so many other factors come into play, like the wind. Both the courses this week, Cinque Ports and Prince’s, were fabulous.”
Reynolds, the England Seniors international from Littlestone, used his local knowledge to charge into second place. Out in 38, he knew from the switch in the wind that he could take advantage coming home. His five inward birdies included three at the last three holes. He hit a six-iron to seven feet at the 10th, a wedge to two feet at the 13th, lipped out for eagle on the 16th, holed a 12-footer on the 17th and a putt from five feet at the last.
“I am absolutely thrilled with the way I played,” Reynolds said. “It’s one of my best rounds ever. I’ve played here before in this wind so I knew how to attack the course but I couldn’t have done it without my caddie, Ian Mason, who is a club member here.
“Before I went out the club pro here, Andrew Reynolds, no relation, who is my Kent Seniors coach, said if I shot 70 I’d win. He’ll probably say if I had shot 70 I would have won but all credit to Paul, he played some superb golf.”
Cooke, a golf course architect who was the runner-up last year, could not squeeze a birdie out of the course. “You have to be playing well to take a title like this and I wasn’t quite there today,” he said. “I lost my rhythm a bit in the weather we had and couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities I gave myself.
“I three-putted the last trying to get into second place but now I’m told I get a bronze medal anyway, like the Olympics. It’s another near-miss but I’m proud to be in contention in a big championship like this. Maybe next year it’s my turn.”