Renowned amateur golfer Paul Simson of Raleigh has won more than 400 tournaments, from casual member-guest events to the grandest of stages.
The 62-year-old Simson will get to enjoy another career highlight the first week of May as part of the United States team competing in the inaugural Concession Cup, the newly formed Mid-Amateur/Senior version of the Ryder Cup.
“It’s pretty exciting for somebody like me,” Simson said of the match-play
competition between the United States, and Great Britain and Ireland, to be held May 1-3 at the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. “Many of the golfers are former Walker Cup players, and I was never fortunate enough to make that team, but I was close a few times. I can’t wait.”
The cup, which will occur every two years, fills a gap in international competition. The Ryder Cup is for the top pros. The Walker Cup covers the amateurs, but those spots normally fall to college players, who have more time to practice and play than adult amateurs with jobs and families.
The name Concession Cup is a tribute to the 1969 Ryder Cup, when Europe’s Tony Jacklin was left with a short put on the final hole of match play against Jack Nicklaus. If Jacklin would have made the putt, the Ryder Cup would have ended in a tie; if he’d have missed it, the United States would have won.
Nicklaus conceded the putt. It’s regarded still as one of the top shows of sportsmanship in history, and it keeps Jacklin and Nicklaus connected today. They are the honorary captains of the two Concession Cup teams this year. Both will be in Florida to kick off the event.
“The competition will certainly be pretty exciting, but it will also be exciting in a different way to be among one of the kingpins of USA professional golf,” Simson said of Nicklaus. “I’ve played with his sons Gary and Jackie in amateur events years ago, but other than shaking Jack’s hand a few times I’ve never had the opportunity to sit down and get to know the man.
“I do know that the Nicklaus family is a wonderful family and have done a ton of good for golf as well as the community in general.”
There are 18 players on each side, with Triad-area golfer Scott Harvey, 35, also representing North Carolina, while Todd White is from Hilton Head Island, S.C.
“With three of the 18 U.S. players from North Carolina and South Carolina it looks like the Carolinas did pretty well as far as the picks go,” Simson said. “This type of format will put older golfers on display. What’s going to be a lot of fun will be playing an alternate shot match with a younger player like a Scott Harvey or a Todd White.”
Simson is regarded as one of the all-time greatest amateurs, not only in North Carolina, but the nation. He has captured two U.S. Senior Amateurs, three British Senior Amateurs, a Canadian Senior Amateur, three North & South Senior Championships, two North & South Championships and more than 25 Carolinas Golf Association events.
“I’m pretty pleased with my entire body of work,” Simson said.
And now in May more memories to add to the overflowing scrapbook.
“It is just a wonderful opportunity for international competition,” Simson said. “There is going to be quite a bit of attention; even new USGA President Tom O’Toole will be there and lots of national and international golf celebrities as well as players.”