MANAKIN-SABOT, Va. (Sept. 12, 2011) -– Defending champion Paul Simson, 60, of Raleigh, N.C., was among 32 players to advance through Monday’s first round of match play at the 2011 USGA Senior Amateur Championship, being conducted at 6,829-yard, par-72 Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va.
Simson, who took stroke-play medalist honors on Sunday, never trailed en route to a 5-and-4 victory over Armen Dirtadian, 58, of Tucson, Ariz.
“It’s always nice to get the first one under your belt,” said Simson, who is trying to become the first person since William C. Campbell in 1980 to defend his Senior Amateur title. “You’re always worried.”
Dirtadian bogeyed the par-4 first hole to give Simson an early 1-up lead. The match remained close, however, as Dirtadian, who advanced out of Monday morning’s playoff, did not let his opponent get more than 2 up over the first 10 holes.
That development was too close for Simson’s comfort.
“I like cruising along at three or four up,” said Simson. “It’s a lot easier to play.”
A clutch 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th, combined with another Dirtadian bogey on the ensuing 13th, gave Simson the 3-up lead he sought.
Following a successful 2010 campaign that yielded victories at the USGA Senior Amateur, Canadian Men’s Senior and British Seniors Open Amateur Championship, Simson was understandably weary. His game faltered, causing him to take several weeks off leading up to this year’s Senior Amateur. To his delight, the break is paying dividends.
“It’s all coming together here, so I’m pretty pleased with the way things are going,” said Simson.
Chip Lutz, 56, of Reading, Pa., needed 20 holes to win his match against playoff-survivor Ian Harris, 58, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The round was certainly a struggle for Lutz, who did not hold a lead until Harris’ bogey on the final hole gave him the victory.
“I hit the ball good, but just really struggled with my putter,” said Lutz, who is attempting to join Simson as winner of the three major senior championships in the same season. “I hit a few too aggressively, and then I started coming up short.”
Tuesday was not so kind to the two players directly behind Simson in the stroke-play standings. William Thomas Doughtie, 58, of Amarillo, Texas, upset 2004 Senior Amateur champion Mark Bemowski, 65, of Mukwonago, Wis., 1 up, while 2005 champion Mike Rice, 71, of Houston, Texas, eliminated Rick Woulfe, 61, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by a 4-and-3 margin.
Doughtie found himself 1 up over Bemowski heading to the 11th hole, and the putts started falling from there. The players combined for six birdies over the final eight holes, with Doughtie’s birdie on the par-4 16th accounting for the final 1-up margin.
“When I three-putted 10, I said, ‘Alright, you need to start knocking it by,’ ” said Doughtie, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2009 Senior Amateur. “I putted good from there in.”
Marvin “Vinny” Giles, 68, of Richmond, Va., the 2009 Senior Amateur champion and a co-designer of Kinloch, defeated Robert Shelton, 59, of Lafayette, La., 3 and 2. Buddy Marucci, 59, of Villanova, Pa., who won the 2007 championship, lost in 19 holes to Richard Marlowe, 60, of Youngstown, Ohio.
Last year’s runner-up Patrick Tallent, 58, of Vienna, Va., advanced with a 2-up victory over Jack Kearney, 56, of Peachtree City, Ga. Also advancing were 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion George Zahringer, 58, of New York, N.Y., and brothers Stanford Lee, 59, and Louis Lee, 55, both of Heber Springs, Ark. Stanford Lee won the 2007 Senior Amateur.
The next four rounds of match play will be conducted over the next two days, with the championship scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday.