Luke DeCock

Amateur golf legend Paul Simson on course for another historic summer – DeCock

Paul Simson of Raleigh drives his ball in July 2012 during the Carolinas Amateur golf tournament in Charlotte. Simson won his second straight Durham Senior Amateur on Tuesday.
Paul Simson of Raleigh drives his ball in July 2012 during the Carolinas Amateur golf tournament in Charlotte. Simson won his second straight Durham Senior Amateur on Tuesday. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Mike Roshelli, in his senior golf debut, found himself tied for the lead in the Durham Senior Amateur on Monday after an excellent 4-under-par 68.

That was good enough to tie him for the lead with Paul Simson, at which point Roshelli, a salesman from Graham, called his boss and informed him he was likely to “choke my guts out” in Tuesday’s second and final round.

Simson won, of course, as he almost always does, although Roshelli gave him everything he could handle through a persistent, soaking rain, matching him par for slushy par over the final four holes to finish only one shot behind the amateur-golf legend at Croasdaile Country Club.

“What an honor it is to play against Paul Simson,” Roshelli said, shaking his head.

So it was yet another win for Simson, who last week won the North Carolina Senior Amateur for the ninth time in 11 years, requiring an update to the many Hall of Fame biographies for the Raleigh insurance agent. His past five competitive rounds have been a collective 12-under par.

“Winning never gets old,” Simson said.

At 66, he may be in the best form since his historic summer of 2010, when he won the U.S. Senior Amateur, British Senior Amateur and Canadian Senior Amateur – an unprecedented sweep. Another summer like that may be too much to ask, but with Simson playing this well, thanks to some equipment tweaks and resurgent confidence, anything is possible.

“To think that could happen again, that’s crazy talk,” Simson said. “I’m playing not quite as well as that, but maybe with a few tune-ups I could get there. I’m seven years older than I was then and the guys that are 55 are getting younger every year. I’ve got a little experience that helps me, and helped me again today.”

There’s a lot to play for over the next four months. In addition to attempting to qualify for the big USGA events – the Senior Open and Senior Amateur – he’ll defend his North & South Senior title at Pinehurst, where he already has won a record eight Putter Boy trophies – six seniors to go with the 1995 and 1996 North & South Championships.

The Durham Senior Amateur isn’t quite in that category, but Croasdaile’s members took over management of the tournament this year – the eighth edition – with ambitions of both showing off their golf course (and, unintentionally, how well it could handle Tuesday’s rain) and making it one of the bigger senior amateur tournaments in the southeast.

That was enough to entice Simson to play it (and win it) for the second straight year, even though it falls on a difficult spot on Simson’s schedule, immediately after the N.C. Senior Amateur and a major club event at North Ridge Country Club, Simson’s home course, and just before a big senior tournament in Chattanooga, but the quality of the tournament has enticed him to play it (and win it) the past two years.

Also, his wife really likes the trophy, a crystal vase, so after bringing one home last year he was under unusual pressure to bring home another Tuesday – even if the accumulation of trophies is an occupational hazard for Simson at this point. Some are in his family room, some are at his office, some are on loan to North Ridge or the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and a sad few get relegated to the garage.

Not this one. He left Croasdaile on Tuesday at a moment when the rain had weakened to a drizzle, carrying the trophy in a cardboard box and relaying his compliments once again to Roshelli, his summer off to another successful – and potentially historic – start.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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