By Alex Podlogar
Photos by John Patota
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Paul Simson could tell right away.
Well, of course he could. Who would’ve been able to tell better?
The Putter Boy trophies awarded to the champions of the 2020 North & South Amateur season have been a little bigger this year – a taller base, an extra layer to the pedestal…and the same classic, bronzed lad standing atop of it all, signifying the winner of one of the most elite of amateur championships around the world.
Four years ago, Simson – among the most decorated senior amateur players in, really, the history of the game itself – became the all-time winningest golfer in Pinehurst’s own storied history. He has won two North & South Amateurs, back in 1995 and ’96, and from 2006-2016, won six more North & South Senior Amateurs, giving him eight Putter Boy trophies – more than George Dunlap’s seven wins, more than Carolyn Cudone’s seven, more than Patty Moore’s seven (more on Patty later), and more than the six each by Glenna Collett, Maureen Orcutt and Estelle Lawson Page.
Paul Simson on Pinehurst No. 2.
After the 2016 triumph, Simson could hardly believe his place in Pinehurst lore. “Who else in the world can say they have their name on the Pinehurst Wall of Honor more than anyone else?” Simson said then. “It’s really cool to have done it just once. To have it more than anybody else is pretty special.”
But on another sweltering day in August, on another loop around venerable Pinehurst No. 2, and just one day after thinking it was time to finally move on to the Super Senior division, the 69-year-old did it again in the 69th playing of the North & South Senior Amateur, shooting a final-round 4-under 68 to clip West End, N.C.’s Sherrill Britt by two shots on Wednesday.
So make it nine Putter Boys.
“No, it never gets old,” Simson said, smiling broadly as usual under his trademark wide-brimmed hat. “To have my name up there nine times – seven Seniors and two regulars – nobody else has got that accomplishment.
“I try to keep as much room between them and me as I can.”
Simson started the day three shots back of leader Gene Elliott, the 4th-ranked senior in the world, who was 3 under through two rounds. Simson was beset by a triple bogey to start his second round on No. 8 on Tuesday, and through six holes was 5 over on his round.
That was when the doubt crept in.
“Standing on the 7th tee of No. 8, I was thinking maybe it was time to move up to the Super Seniors,” Simson admitted. “Maybe I won’t now.”
But something clicked there, and he made a birdie on the 7th of No. 8. Simson went on to play his last 30 holes of the championship in 7 under and did not make a bogey in that stretch. Even more incredibly, Simson did not miss a green on No. 2 in regulation on Wednesday.
“On No. 2, every green? No,” he said, shaking his head. “No, I know I’ve never done that before.”
Martha Leach, the 63rd Women’s North & South Senior Amateur Champion
Martha Leach, playing in her first Women’s North & South Senior Amateur, picked up her first Putter Boy trophy after firing a 4-under 68 on Pinehurst No. 5 to come from behind and defeat 2019 North & South Senior Champion Ellen Port.
Leach started the final round three shots back of Port, a three-time U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Champion, but made five birdies on the day to cruise to a five-shot victory.
“Finally,” said Leach, who, for decades has been competitive in the Women’s North & South Amateur, and is exempt to play in that event again in 2021 following her Senior victory. “It really means a lot to have one of these, to have my name on the wall inside the clubhouse. I’ve played in so many Amateurs, and to win in my first time in the Senior, I am so very happy.”
Steven Fox, the 2019 Super Seniors North & South Champion, led by five shots entering the final round and won by nine to successfully defend.
Patty Moore won her seventh Putter Boy trophy after winning the Women’s North & South Super Senior Amateur.
And Moore, a Pinehurst Country Club member, won her fourth Super Seniors North & South, making four birdies in her last seven holes to edge Teresa Cleland by three shots. With three Senior Women’s North & South wins, Moore now has seven Putter Boy trophies.
Moore started the day two Putter Boys behind Simson. The chase will continue.
It makes for a unique, um, problem…
“They occupy a lot of room,” Simson said of his Putter Boy stash, most of which are on display in a trophy room in his Raleigh home, while one here and there can be found on display in respective and various Halls of Fame.
“I’m not sure, though, where this one will go. It’s the biggest of them all.”