ORLANDO, Fla. – Both finalists in the USGA Senior Amateur Championship predicted their 18-hole match Thursday would come down to putting.
Pat Tallent, of Vienna, Va., said point blank: “These greens (at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club) are so good, somebody is going to make a lot of putts.”
So Tallent didn’t look surprised when his opponent, Paul Simson, of Raleigh. N.C., missed the first fairway, missed the first green, then putted his ball into the hole from the fringe, 28 feet away.
“That ball was going 100 miles an hour,” said Tallent, with a large dose of embellishment, “but a birdie is a birdie. Paul is one of the best putters you will ever see.”
Match play margin: Paul Simson, 2 and 1, over Pat Tallent
Medal scores (with concessions): Simson: 3 under par; Tallent 1 under
Fairways hit: Simson 9/13, Tallent 11/13
Greens hit: Simson 13/17, Tallent 9/17
Up-and-down from around the green: Simson 5/5, Tallent 7/9
Total number of putts: Simson 26, Tallent 25
Total length of putts made: Simson 91 feet, Tallent 63 feet
– James Achenbach
After Simson drained a 24-foot birdie putt on the seventh green, Tallent looked skyward and asked, “What am I supposed to do, tackle him?”
Well, no, but it clearly was Simson’s day. He scored a 2-and-1 victory and recorded his first USGA championship in 48 tries.
“I wanted to run away from him,” said Simson, who built a 4-up after nine holes and was 3 under par for the 17 holes of the match. This was an honest-to-goodness 3 under, too, as the only match-play concessions to Simson were extremely short putts.
Tallent was 1 under par for 17 holes, but he couldn’t match Simson’s firepower on the greens.
“That’s where I lost it,” Tallent said. “I missed four (makeable) putts on the front side, and that killed me.”
Competitors in the USGA Senior Amateur must be at least 55 years old. Simson is 59, Tallent 57.
Simson’s triumph completed what was being hailed as the Simson Slam – winning the British, Canadian and U.S. senior amateur titles in the same year.
“There is nothing like a USGA championship,” said Simson as he embraced his trophy. “I’ve been chasing this victory for a long, long time.”
After college at the University of New Mexico, Simson turned pro and roomed with Bruce Leitzke, who would become a superstar. Simson, meanwhile, returned to the amateur ranks and became an insurance agent.
Simson and Tallent have emerged as high-profile rivals in senior amateur golf. They tied for medalist honors in the 2009 USGA Senior Amateur. In the 2010 championship, Tallent won the medal with a 4-under 140, while Simson was one back at 141.
“I think I was under par in every single match,” Simson said. “It’s a lot easier to play that back nine when you’re ahead.”
The only anxious moment for Simson occurred on 14. Tallent had just birdied 13 to cut Simson’s lead to 3 up. On the short 297-yard 14th hole, Simson decided to go for the green with his driver. He pulled the tee shot and ended up behind some trees.
“I was just able to maneuver the ball through the trees and onto the left side of the green,” Simson said. “That was the key to the match, in my mind.”
Facing a tricky, downhill, downgrain putt from 50 feet, Simson two-putted for par to tie Tallent, who missed a 16-foot birdie putt. So Simson remained 3 up with four holes to play.
“I really putted well today, and my short game was on,” Simson said. “That made the difference.”
As the noted golfer William Shakespeare might have said, to the putter goes the spoils.
With the trophy in his hands, Simson was as protective as a Shakespearean king. The USGA offered to ship it to his home, but he declined the offer.
“This baby is staying with me,” said the champion. “It’s going on the airplane.”
• • •
Final results from the U.S. Senior Amateur, played Oct. 4-7 at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, Fla.:
Paul Simson def. Pat Tallent, 2 and 1
Pat Tallent def. Chip Lutz, 2 up
Paul Simson def. Jeff Burda, 4 and 3
Pat Tallent def. Frank Ford III, 2 and 1
Chip Lutz def. Don Thames, 5 and 4
Paul Simson def. Tim Miller, 3 and 2
Jeff Burda def. Greg Reynolds, 3 and 2
ROUND OF 16
Pat Tallent def. Marvin Giles, 20 holes
Frank Ford III def. Dave Ryan, 4 and 2
Don Thames def. David Williamson, 19 holes
Chip Lutz def. Stewart Alexander, 19 holes
Paul Simson def. David Anthony, 2 and 1
Tim Miller vs. Stanford Lee, 5 and 4
Greg Reynolds def. Randy Nichols, 2 and 1
Jeff Burda def. Sam Farlow, 2 and 1
ROUND OF 32
Pat Tallent def. David Szewczul, 1 up
Marvin Giles def. Bev Hargraves, 1 up
Rick Woulfe def. Frank Ford III, 2 up
Dave Ryan def. Bruce Scamehorn, 1 up
Don Thames def. Jim Knoll, 4 and 3
David Williamson def. Bill Zylstra, 2 up
Chip Lutz def. George J. Zahringer III, 1 up
Stewart Alexander def. Douglas Pool, 2 and 1
Paul Simson def. Logan Jackson, 4 and 3
David Anthony def. Terry Werner, 2 and 1
Stanford Lee def. Dan Bieber, 2 and 1
Tim Miller def. Michael Kelly, 4 and 2
Randy Nichols def. Chuck Palmer, 19 holes
Greg Reynolds def. Steve Smyers, 19 holes
Sam Farlow def. Tom Knapp, 4 and 3
Jeff Burda def. Robert Allshouse, 4 and 2
ROUND OF 64
Pat Tallent def. Dave Bates, 2 up
David Szewczul def. Arthur Kania, 19 holes
Marvin Giles def. Robin McCool, 19 holes
Bev Hargraves def. Pete Willoughby, 5 and 3
Rick Woulfe def. Christopher Veitch, 25 holes
Frank Ford III def. Mike Booker, 4 and 3
Bruce Scamehorn def. John Lindholm, 20 holes
Dave Ryan def. Glenn Mullian, 2 and 1
Don Thames def. William T. Doughtie, 1 up
Jim Knoll def. Dick Satterfield, 1 up
David Williamson def. Rick Luzar, 2 and 1
Bill Zylstra def. Ted Pecora, 1 up
Chip Lutz def. Thomas Nesbitt, 1 up
George J. Zahringer III def. Raymon Thompson, 4 and 2
Douglas Pool def. Richard Pfeil, 5 and 4
Stewart Alexander def. Larry Clark, 4 and 3
Paul Simson def. Curt Knorr, 6 and 5
Logan Jackson def. Kim Mansfield, 4 and 3
Terry Werner def. James Lyons, 6 and 5
David Anthony def. Gary Palmer, 21 holes
Stanford Lee def. Bill Cavaness, 6 and 4
Dan Bieber def. Jim Henderson, 2 and 1
Michael Kelly def. Steven Whittaker, 3 and 2
Tim Miller def. Duke Delcher, 6 and 5
Randy Nichols def. Jon Groveman, 5 and 4
Chuck Palmer def. Don Erickson III, 4 and 3
Greg Reynolds def. David Pocknall, 2 and 1
Steve Smyers def. George “Buddy” Marucci Jr., 19 holes
Tom Knapp def. Charles Jones, 4 and 2
Sam Farlow def. Corliss J. Nelson, 4 and 2
Robert Allshouse def. Skip Runnels, 2 and 1
Jeff Burda def. Brad Larsen, 4 and 3