Mr. Consistency: Simson Wins Society of Seniors Tourney
Paul Simson came to Southern Pines, saw one of his favorite golf courses and conquered the field in the annual Society of Seniors Championship held at Pine Needles and Mid Pines resorts.
Simson, the all-time winning golfer in the Carolinas Golf Association and an international force in senior golf, was Mr. Consistency during his three rounds over the renowned Donald Ross-designed Pine Needles layout.
He shot 69-69-69—207 for a runaway six-stroke victory in the event that annually features the top names in senior amateurs.
Simson has been winning for so long and so often that it’s unusual for him to be a first-time winner of an event. He won the Society of Seniors Dale Morey Division two years ago at The Honors Club in Tennessee.
“This was a nice win for me,” the Raleigh insurance executive said. “There are a lot of good players here, and it’s a lot of fun playing with and against them. Pine Needles is in fantastic shape, and it’s special winning something that’s part of Mrs. Bell’s 90th birthday celebration.”
Peggy Kirk Bell, whose family owns and operates Pine Needles and Mid Pines, turned 90 on Friday, and there are several events planned over the next couple of weeks as part of the occasion.
Simson had special praise for the setup of the course, which has hosted three U.S. Women’s Opens since 1996.
“They had the course playing about 6,500 yards, which is a good distance for us,” Simson said, “and they had the par-4 eighth hole playing about 300 yards. I couldn’t drive it, but there were some guys in the field who could, so that was a fun hole. They mixed the course up very well.”
Simson, who is renowned for his scrambling abilities, excels on Donald Ross courses as evidenced by his back-to-back wins in the North and South Amateur held annually on Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 Course.
“I had five birdies and three bogeys each day,” Simson said of the consistency of his play. “And I had only one three-putt green.”
Simson’s win came as no surprise to anyone, including himself, despite a field that included such names as Vinny Giles of Richmond, Va., Chip Lutz of Reading Va., Ernie Newton of High Point and Bill Boles of Wilson.
“I’ve played well all year,” he said. “I won the North and South Senior, the North Carolina Senior and was medalist in the U.S. Senior qualifying. So I can’t complain … it’s been a good year.
“Everything worked well this week, but my putting was especially good. And I had a huge advantage over most of the field because I’ve played this course a hundred times.”
Lutz shot 74-72-67—213 to take second place in the Morey Division, followed by Giles at 216, and Don Slater of Durham, Paul Schlachter of Bridgeville, Pa., and Robert Hess of Casselberry, Fla., at 217.
Jerry Jackson of Kokomo, Tenn., shot 73-75-75—223 to win the John Owens Division, which was played at Mid Pines. Mike Nixon of Nashville, Tenn., was second with 224.
Larry Boswell of Jamestown, who was inducted into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame a few weeks ago in Pinehurst, tied for third with 225.
Gary Strickfaden of Southern Pines, the only local player competing, shot 78-72-76—226 to finish sixth.
Pine Needles President Kelly Miller was delighted to host the championship. “This is a great bunch of guys,” he said, “and I’ve known a lot of them from playing in events over the years.
“Paul is an amazing player, and he’s still playing phenomenal golf. And it’s great to see guys like Vinny (Giles) and George Zahringer.
“We’ve really enjoyed having the championship here, and we’d love to have it come back. It’s great exposure for the area, and we certainly had some great weather for them. Some of them had never been here before and they loved it.
“We’re just glad to have them here, and we’re talking about bringing them back.”
Jim Popa, tournament director, feels that will happen.
“We’re certainly thinking about coming back,” Popa said. “These courses and the facilities are tailor-made for us. It’s everything we’re looking for, and the hospitality has been wonderful. The Bell family has treated us like members of the family.”
Contact Howard Ward at email@example.com
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