Paul Simson of Raleigh will be looking to earn a share of U.S. Golf Association history Thursday in the finals of the 63rd U.S. Senior Amateur.
Simson, who won the title in 2010 and 2012, will face Sean Knapp of Oakmont, Pa., in the 18-hole championship match at Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minn. Simon, 66, is bidding to become only the second player to win the U.S. Senior Amateur three times, joining Lewis Oehmig (1972, 1976, 1985.)
Simson and Knapp, 55, have gone head-to-head twice before with a lot at stake. Simson beat out Knapp in a playoff for a U.S. Open berth in 1998, and again in the quarterfinals of the 1998 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Both players won a pair of matches Wednesday. Simson defeated 2016 runnerup Matt Sughrue, 5 and 4, in their morning quarterfinal match before a 5-and-3 win over Frank Vana in the semifinals.
While a Simson victory would mark the fifth time the championship was won by a player at least 66 years old, a Knapp triumph would make him the first U.S. Senior Amateur rookie to win the championship since Louis Lee in 2011.
Knapp won his quarterfinal match over David Nocar, setting up a matchup with defending champion Dave Ryan in the semifinals. Knapp jumped out to a 3-up lead on Ryan, who was trying to become the first back-to-back champion since former USGA president William C. Campbell in 1980, in reaching his first final in a USGA championship.
“I think for most of us, it takes an understanding of how important it is to be here, what's at hand. The chance may never come again in a lifetime. You can't take it lightly. It's so tough,” said Knapp, who reached the semifinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2008 and 2010, and fell to Tiger Woods in the 1995 U.S. Amateur in the Round of 16.
By advancing to the final, Simson and Knapp earn exemptions into the 2018 U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs, Colo. They also secured spots in the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, and three-year exemptions into the Senior Amateur. The champion earns a 10-year exemption into the Senior Amateur.
“I've been playing pretty well all summer and have been on the periphery of having a really good year,” Simson told the USGA. “You know, I've done a lot of good things, but it's just been a little bit off, and it has pretty much come together this week.”
Simson earlier this summer won the North Carolina Senior Amateur for the ninth time in the past 11 years.