Co-Medalist Reunites With First Golf Teacher
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
Newburgh, Ind. – Paul Simson never thought a rain delay at the 2006 USGA Senior Amateur would bring him full circle in his golf life.
But, much to his delight, it did.
Simson, 55, of Raleigh, N.C., asked some Evansville high school golf coaches he’d met at Victoria National Golf Club if a man named Ron Reiner was in the area. They replied in the affirmative. Simson knew his first golf instructor from Fairmont Country Club in Chatham, N.J., had been in the area, but hadn’t been in touch in about 15 years.
"He’d had some health problems and I didn’t know if he was alive,” said Simson, who won the 2006 Senior British Amateur and was co-medalist in stroke play over the weekend. “I just called him in that break when we were coming in on the carts.”
Reiner, who lives in Newburgh, Ind., and was the head professional at Henderson Country Club in Kentucky for 25 years until his retirement six years ago, drove over to see his old protégé.
"I was totally shocked,” said Reiner. “About 15 years ago, he called me when I was in a meeting. And, he wanted to talk to me and they were yelling at me. That’s the last I talked to him.”
Simson, now an insurance executive, carried his lessons from Reiner strong and true, winning numerous amateur golf tournaments since his college playing days at the University of New Mexico.
The leprechaun-faced Simson has played in USGA championships in the last 22 consecutive years and was twice a semifinalist at the U.S. Mid-Amateur. In addition, he was low amateur at the 2001 U.S. Senior Open. He’s played in nearly 40 USGA championships since his first appearance at the 1967 Junior Amateur, including the 1998 U.S. Open.
"I recognized him but he was a skinny little kid,” Reiner said using his hands for measuring. “But, he was a helluva player.”
"I never, ever had another instructor,” Simson said of Reiner. “I’ve never had another lesson.”
The two met after Simson’s parents joined Fairmont Country Club as charter members when the club only had four holes in 1961. They were members until 1970 when they moved to Dallas. Reiner came to the club in 1964 and loved teaching juniors like Simson.
Fairmont holds fond memories for Simson, aside from his time with Reiner. He met his wife, Chris, on the ninth green. He proposed there and they had wedding pictures taken there as well.
But, it was golf that brought Reiner and Simson together. In fact, Reiner, also taught Simson’s mother, Jane, who is a two-time Fairmont club champion and still plays golf.
"We used to putt all the time even at 10 at night,” Simson said. “I knew every blade of grass on that green.”
“I remember he wanted to beat this one kid who was in college,” Reiner said. “He said, ‘If I could just hit it farther.’ I told him to do one things with his left arm and he hit that ball and he jumped about 10 feet in the air. He was thrilled and he killed that guy every hole and that was a college player.”
Simson, whose son Phillip, 25, is serving as his caddie this week was impressed with his father’s old teacher. “He’s in great shape,” the younger Simson said. “And, he has more hair than dad.”
However Simson looks, however, it’s easy to see the pride in Reiner’s eyes about his old pupil even 42 years later. Sometimes, though, those pupils don’t listen.
"I thought he should go pro, but he wanted to sell insurance,” Reiner said.
Story written by Pete Kowalski, USGA Media Relations. E-mail him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org