Eure, Lawson Take First Round Lead at North and South
Josh Eure knows just how good two-time North and South Amateur champion Paul Simson is.
“He beat me,” Eure said. “Beat me in the second round of match play (in 2011). He sure doesn’t play like he’s 61 years old.”
Forty years Simson’s junior, Eure showed he can play a little as well. The rising senior at Arkansas shot a solid 4-under 67 to share the lead with Arizona transfer Spencer Lawson after the first round at the 112th North and South Amateur, which was played on Pinehurst No. 8 on Tuesday.
Lawson made six birdies on his round while Eure shook off a 53-minute weather delay late in the evening to finish a 6 ½-hour round with five birdies and just one bogey. They enter today’s second round one shot ahead of Clemson junior Thomas Bradshaw, who set the early pace with a morning round of 3-under 67 -- and just three strokes ahead of the ageless Simson.
A member of the North Carolina Hall of Fame and one of the most decorated amateur players, Simson won the North and South in 1995 and 1996. The only past North and South champion in the 2012 field, he is also a four-time winner of the North and South Senior Championship, including in 2011. In 2010, Simson won the U.S. Senior Amateur, the British Seniors Open Championship and the Canadian Men’s Senior.
“I’ve probably played in this tournament 25 times,” Simson said following his 1-under 70, his shirt drenched from playing a morning round with temperatures in the 90s. “And I had a pretty solid day. I’m not unhappy at all.”
Simson missed his first five greens in regulation, but was just 1 over in the stretch. He made three birdies in a span of 10 holes with just one bogey, putting him in a tie for 14th.
“The distance isn’t so much a problem for me, but I do think it has helped having played all these courses so many times,” Simson said. “I can see the lines better, and I know where the miss is. The younger guys, they don’t really know where the misses are.”
Those younger guys make up the rest of the field, which is comprised of some of the best young amateurs in the world.
“The parents are getting younger, too,” Simson quipped.
The top 60 players after the second round on Wednesday will advance to a third round of stroke play at the 7,042-yard, par-71 No. 8. The top 16 following Thursday’s third round will move on to match play, with two 18-hole matches being played on Friday at restored Pinehurst No. 2. The semifinal and final 18-hole matches will be played on Saturday at No. 2.
Lawson, who was 4 when Simson won his first North and South, was 2 under through his first four holes after starting his round on No. 8’s back nine. He bogeyed 16 and made the turn at 1 under, but then birdied the next three holes to take the lead. A bogey at the par-3 fifth set him back for a moment, but Lawson came back with his sixth birdie of the day on the next hole.
Eure birdied his first two holes before a wayward drive on the par-4 third forced him to drop a shot. But starting on the ninth hole, he made three birdies in a six-hole stretch to rocket up the leaderboard before play was interrupted.
“It was a long day,” Eure said. “It’s hard to stay focused with a delay like that. You make birdies, and you just want to keep the momentum going.”
Bradshaw held the lead for most of the day, finishing his morning round with a tidy 3-under 68. Playing in his second North and South – Bradshaw advanced to the first round of match play a year ago – he got off to a hot start. After teeing off on the 10th, Bradshaw made the turn at 2 under after seven pars and two birdies and got as low as 4 under with birdies at 1 and 3 before a bogey at the ninth dropped him to 3 under.
“I played a solid round,” said Bradshaw. “I played 17 solid holes before that last bogey. But that’s going to happen out here.”
Bradshaw’s mother Sherry caddied for him on Tuesday. His brother, Brewer, a fellow golfer at Clemson, has also appeared in the North and South.
“Pinehurst is just such a special place,” Bradshaw said. “We always try to get back here every chance we get.”
Ten players were at 2 under, including 16-year-old Ben Griffin, who birdied three of his first four holes to start his round. Griffin, who won the North Carolina state high school 4-A championship as a freshman at East Chapel Hill High, has also won the last two U.S. Kids Teen World Championships at Pinehurst. Making his first North and South Amateur appearance, Griffin verbally committed to play golf at North Carolina in February as a high school sophomore.
“I’ll definitely take it,” Griffin said of his 69. “I love Pinehurst. The courses are always in great shape and I’ve had a great past at Pinehurst. I just hope to continue what I did today through the next two rounds and try to make it to the top 16.”
Southern Pines’ Robert Hoadley, who is making his fifth appearance at the championship, also posted a 69. Trying to keep the championship in Moore County after Jack Fields prevailed last year, Hoadley carded as solid a round as any player with two birdies and 16 pars. But he had to work for it.
“When I started, I was hitting it good and putting bad,” he said. “Then I made a 10-footer to save par on 11, and felt like that’s when my putter got a jump start. Typical golf. I went from hitting it good and putting bad to not hitting it very well and putting great. My short game definitely saved my round on the back side.”
Pinehurst No. 8, the site for the three rounds of stroke play, was not easy on Tuesday. While conditions were relatively soft despite the recent heat wave, players struggled with dicey pin placements.
“The pin locations were in some unbelievable spots.” Hoadley said. “A lot of them are what you’d call ‘Sunday’ pins.”
Stefan Brewer, who joined Hoadley in the group at 69 after getting as low as 4 under through 13 holes, agreed.
“Those were pretty tough pins,” he said. “You really had to aim at the center of the greens and putt to corners. But everything’s in great shape. I loved it.”
The North and South is the longest consecutive-running amateur golf championship in the United States today, now in its 112th year.
Over the past century, the best in the golf world have vied for its coveted Putterboy Trophy. The winners now serve as legends in the game - Walter Travis, Francis-Ouimet, Billy Joe Patton, Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange, Corey Pavin, Davis Love II, among others. It continues to draw the best in amateur golf circles.
"Pinehurst has been a bastion of amateur golf for over a century," said Pinehurst President Don Padgett. "It is amateur golf at its best."
David Erdy, the 2011 runner-up, finished with an even-par 71 on Tuesday and is tied for 24th. Jim Liu, the top-ranked collegiate golfer in the class of 2013 and the youngest player to win the U.S. Junior Amateur, shot 5-over 76 and is tied for 85th.
Alex Podlogar is the content and social media manager for Pinehurst Resort.
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