Notebook: Grace Under Pressure? Not Really
By Ken Klavon, USGA
Fort Worth, Texas – It’s been at least 10 years since 60-year-old Fort Worth resident John Grace was a member of Shady Oaks Country Club. The 1974 U.S. Amateur runner-up and veteran of the 1975 USA Walker Cup team estimated he’s played the course about 750 times.
Think that might give him an advantage? Think again.
“It doesn’t help as much as you think,” said Grace after shooting a 3-over 74 in the first round of stroke play. “The rough wasn’t like this at all. It’s quite a bit different.”
The rough this week is penal and thick. Grace, a member here for 20 years, remembered it as flat.
The USGA Senior Amateur marks his 37th USGA championship.
“These have always been my favorite events. We all love them and can’t wait to get out here so we can suffer,” he quipped.
The dynamic between caddie and player can be like walking a tightrope, especially when the two are related. Such is the case with decorated amateur Paul Simson, 57, of Raleigh, N.C., and his 27-year-old son Phillip Simson.
As far as the younger Simson can recall, he’s been lugging dad’s bag since he was 8 or 9 years old. That started in local Carolina events until the venues, and stakes, got larger. The first USGA championship Phillip caddied was at the 1998 U.S. Open when he was 17. Since then, when time permits, the two are inseparable. Phillip has his own company and plans vacations around Simson’s schedule just so he can caddie.
“It’s an incredible escape from the wear and tear of the work grind,” said Phillip Saturday. “We’re like best friends, the best of buddies.”
Rarely are there any disagreements. In fact, the elder Simson, coming off a second British Senior Open Amateur win, confirmed that his son knows his game better than anyone.
“He’s a big help,” said Simson after registering a 2-over 73. “Sometimes I don’t see the same things as well he does. As far as clubs go, he’s spot on.”
Stan Lee won’t play mind games with himself. It’d be easy to do since he’s trying to defend his crown this week. A solid 1-over 72 put him in contention to advance to match play, which begins Monday.
Too many times have players trying to defend a title put pressure on themselves and unravel. It happens to the best, such as Angel Cabrera in this year’s U.S. Open. Lee took the lesson to heart before he made the seven-hour drive from his Arkansas home.
During his round Saturday, Lee said he was at ease. He figured he’s won the event once, which is more than many players can say. It’s served as a mantra of sorts.
“I had an epiphany about a month ago because I felt I might come down here and have that happen,” he said. “I would say the opposite has been true.”
Larry Barnacle, 60, of Pine Springs, Minn., sat quietly, mesmerized to hear how the story unfolded. Barnacle had just finished his first round with a 3-over 74 when Don Jorgenson, 61, of Tucson, Ariz., sidled up and spoke about being sidelined after suffering serious injuries when he got hit by a car in 2003.
The two commiserated briefly about matching 10-inch scars after both endured knee surgeries. Shortly after, Barnacle stood up, extended his hand and said, “It’s an honor to have you here.”
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Editor for Digital Media. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.