BY ALEX PODLOGAR
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – His scorecard signed and attested, Paul Simson sought to find some shade. He settled into his golf cart, his phone in hand. He needed to make a quick call. Then he had a text or two to send.
All of these actions were done with an ever-widening smile on his face. The moment was almost too much.
After all, he had just done something no one has ever done in the 120-year history of Pinehurst.
Paul Simson won his eighth North & South Amateur championship on Thursday – his sixth North & South Senior Amateur – to become the all-time winningest golfer at Pinehurst.
“Who else in the world can say they have their name on the Pinehurst wall of honor more than anyone else?” Simson said, the smile never leaving. “It’s really cool to have done it just once. To have it more than anybody else is pretty special.”
Over 20 years ago, before he won his first North & South Amateur, Simson couldn’t bring himself to even look at the wall of names of past champions in Pinehurst Resort and Country Club’s famed clubhouse.
Sure, Simson knew all the names, and knew them well. But even for the man who seems to have won every amateur title imaginable, it was the thought of having his name emblazoned in bronze at Pinehurst that sent the chill through him.
“I wouldn’t even go by the wall,” Simson said of that time. “I just wanted my name to go up there so much, I couldn’t even bring myself to look at it.”
Now, it’s up there eight times, twice on the North & South Amateur wall – in 1995 and 1996; Simson is the last man to have won back-to-back North & South championships – and now six times in the Senior North & South – 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015 and in the 65th playing of the event, in 2016.
With the 1-shot victory over Pinehurst resident Macon Moye, Simson on Thursday eclipsed 7-time North & South Amateur Champion George Dunlap, 7-time Women’s North & South Amateur Champion Estelle Lawson Page, and Carolyn Cudone, who won six Senior Women’s North & Souths and one Women’s North & South Amateur.
“Doing something special in golf is always something you strive for or hope to achieve,” Simson said. “To win a state amateur or a mid-amateur or a senior amateur, but Pinehurst being the premier golf resort in the country, to have your name up there more than anybody else is incredible.”
That says a lot coming from Simson, 65, a legend in amateur golf. He’s won more than 200 titles, and in 2010, he won the British Amateur, the Canadian Amateur and the U.S. Senior Amateur in a span of 55 days. In 2008, Simson played in the U.S. Senior Open, the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst and the U.S. Senior Amateur.
But the possibility of winning for the eighth time at Pinehurst weighed heavily on Simson’s mind.
“I have to admit, I’m surprised I thought about it as much as I did,” he said.
Simson had to close strongly to win the championship, and did so, making birdie on the 16th and 18th holes of Pinehurst No. 5 to rally and claim the victory over Moye, who had eagled 17.
“I didn’t really think about it last night,” said Simson, a Raleigh resident. “But on the drive down here and today while I was playing, I thought about it. And sometimes it was a curse and sometimes it was a motivator.”
Simson wasn’t the only champion on Thursday to defend his title. Canada’s Judith Kyrinis, who won the 58th Senior Women’s North & South Amateur a year ago, fired a tournament-low 69 on Pinehurst No. 1 to win by 10 shots over Amy Ellertson and Marie-Therese Torti to successfully – and emphatically – defend her championship.
“I’ve had a lot of people over the last year text me and email me when they saw my name in the hallway when they visited Pinehurst,” Kyrinis said. “It really is an honor to have your name up there forever and your picture up for the year. I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled again.”
Pinehurst Country Club member Patty Moore won the Super Senior Women’s North & South by a stroke over Beatriz Arenas, winning a coveted Putter Boy trophy for the sixth time. Moore, who won the Senior Women’s North & South three times, has now won three Super Senior titles.
Don Donatoni, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, shot a 3-under 69 on Pinehurst No. 8 to win the Super Senior North & South Amateur by one shot over Logan Jackson.