Putting will decide U.S. Senior Am champion

Paul Simson

Paul Simson

ORLANDO, Fla. – When arch rivals Pat Tallent of Vienna, Va., and Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., meet in Thursday’s 18-hole final of the USGA Senior Amateur Championship, look for putting to decide the winner.

So says Tallent: “The guy who makes putts will win. These greens (at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club) are perfect, but they can be very, very tough to read.”

Tallent, 57, and Simson, 59, will take contrasting putting styles into the final. Tallent uses a long putter (a Yes! Natalie), while Simson uses a conventional flatstick (a Ping Zing).

In Wednesday afternoon’s semifinal round, Tallent surged in front of Chip Lutz of Reading, Pa., by using his putter from far off the 16th green. He was 15 feet short of the putting surface and 65 feet from the hole, but he rolled his ball within inches of the cup. Lutz then three-putted from 50 feet.

The match was even after 15 holes, but Tallent won both Nos. 16 and 18 for a 2-up triumph. Meanwhile, Simson defeated Jeff Burda of Modesto, Calif., 4-and-3.

“I’ve used this putter (the Natalie) for four years,” Tallent explained. “I was playing in the Raymond Floyd Cup, and Vinny Giles was putting with one. He made every single putt he looked at. I ordered the exact same one.”

Tallent, a former All-American basketball player at George Washington University, has become something of a putting philosopher. For example, he advocates a unique method of dealing with the putting woes.

“Whenever I start putting badly,” he said, “I just go and buy another one (of the same kind). I’ve got five Natalies now. When I get a new putter, I get a new grip, and it feels good. So I haven’t changed putters, or models, in four years. I don’t know which one is which any more, but that’s okay.”

Five Natalies, uh? Yes! is fond of naming its putters after women, so the other Yes! putters, in no particular order, are Mollie, Morgan, Donna, Dawn, Abbie, Callie, Robin, Gina, Tracy, Dianna, Carolyne, Sophia, Athena, Ashley, Victoria, Marilyn, Madison, Jennie, Sandy, Hanna, Valerie, Olivia, Tiffany, Lizzy and Emma.

Perhaps overwhelmed by this distinct female presence, Tallent turned his attention to Simson’s Ping Zing putter. “He’s unbelievable with this,” he observed.

Simson knew exactly how long he has used the putter. “Twenty years last month,” he said. “It hasn’t come out of the bag. Well, briefly. A couple of times it went to detention, that’s all.”

Simson already has won the British and Canadian senior amateur titles this year and is shooting for a unprecedented triple here at the USGA Senior Amateur.

In the 36-hole qualifier that preceded match play, Tallent was medalist with a 140 total, 4-under-par, while Simson finished one stroke back at 141. They clearly have been the hottest players this week.

Now it’s mano y mano. Or puttero y puttero.

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