MANAKIN-SABOT, Va. (Sept. 11, 2011) -– Defending champion Paul Simson, 60, of Raleigh, N.C., carded a two-day total of 5-under-par 139 to take medalist honors at the 2011 USGA Senior Amateur Championship, being conducted at 6,829-yard, par-72 Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va.
First-round leader Mark Bemowski, 65, of Mukwonago, Wis., was one stroke behind at 4-under 140, followed by Rick Woulfe, 61, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at 3-under 141.
Simson, who has claimed the stroke-play medal four of the last six years, followed his opening-round 71 with a 4-under 68 on Sunday. In taking medalist honors, he tied William Hyndman III for the most times as medalist at the Senior Amateur.
Simson opened his round by making 15-foot birdie putts on two of his first three holes. However, consecutive bogeys on holes four and five quickly erased that fast start.
An up-and-down par out of a greenside bunker on the par-4 sixth brought Simson’s round back to an even keel.
“I played pretty solid after that,” said Simson, who in 2010 became the first player to win the USGA Senior Amateur, Canadian Men’s Senior and British Seniors Open Amateur Championships in the same season. “I hit all the fairways except for 18 after the seventh hole.”
Another 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 eighth hole got Simson back on track. His 35-foot eagle on the par-5 12th put Simson atop the leaderboard, a position that he found very familiar, though not necessarily comfortable.
“Everyone talks about the medalist jinx, but the defending champion jinx is even longer,” said Simson, with a wry smile.
His concern is certainly not without merit. The last medalist to take the championship title was John Richardson in 1987, while William C. Campbell was the last player to defend his title when he won in 1979 and 1980.
Bemowski, who had sole possession of the lead following Saturday’s first round of stroke play, struggled with his short game on Sunday. Four birdies paired with four bogeys made for a relatively disappointing second-place performance.
“I really hit the ball well today,” said Bemowski, the 2004 Senior Amateur champion. “I just missed a million, billion putts.”
Woulfe, who started on the 10th hole, opened his round on Sunday morning with consecutive birdies. However, a three-putt double bogey on the par-4 12th, followed by another bogey on the ensuing par-5 13th, quickly erased his early efforts.
“On 13, my wife could have beat me,” said Woulfe, a five-time Florida State Senior Player of the Year who defeated Tiger Woods en route to victory at the 1992 Dixie Amateur. “Not one good swing and lucky to make bogey.”
Woulfe carded yet another bogey on the par-4 15th to fall even further down the leaderboard. But a key birdie on the difficult par-4 18th proved to be the turning point of his round. Woulfe converted two birdies over his final four holes to finish 1-under for the round.
“I’m sitting there at the bottom of the swale on 17, I’m thinking, 39 is not going to be too bad,” said Woulfe. “I got it up and down and then I birdied 18. So that kind of changed my whole thinking.”
Chip Lutz, 56, of Reading, Pa., and Raymond Thompson, 59, of Drexel Hill, Pa., sit one stroke behind Woulfe at 2-under 142. Lutz, who has already taken the 2011 Canadian Men’s Senior and British Seniors Open Amateur titles, is attempting to join Simson as winner of the three senior titles in the same year.
George Zahringer, 58, of New York, N.Y., winner of the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and Ronald Kilby, 56, of McAllen, Texas, round out the players in red numbers at 1-under 143.
Marvin “Vinny” Giles, 68, of Richmond, Va., a co-designer of Kinloch Golf Club and a two-time USGA champion, shot even-par 72 on his home course to finish at 3-over 147. Other USGA champions to make the cut were George “Buddy” Marucci, 59, of Villanova, Pa., at 4-over 148, and Stanford Lee, 59, of Heber Springs, Ark., at 5-over 149.
A playoff will be conducted at 8:30 a.m. on Monday to finalize the match-play bracket, with 2005 Senior Amateur champion Mike Rice among the nine players competing for the final eight berths in match play. Sixty-five players sit at 7-over 151 or better, making this year’s cut the lowest in Senior Amateur history.
Notable players to miss the cut were Senior Amateur champions Mike Bell (2006), Greg Reynolds (2002) and Kemp Richardson (2001 and 2003) as well as 1975 U.S. Amateur champion and past USGA President Fred Ridley.
In commemoration of today’s 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the traditional USGA hole flags on Nos. nine and 11 were replaced with American flags.
After Monday’s first round of match play, the final five rounds of match play will be conducted over the following three days, with the championship scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday.