Medalists Simson, Tallent Head In Opposite Directions
By Ken Klavon, USGA
Chicago – It was the tale of two diverse outcomes.
Co-medalists Paul Simson and Pat Tallent woke up Monday morning knowing it could be the last day of golf at the 2009 USGA Senior Amateur, being held at Beverly Country Club. Such is the method of the match-play format. Work exceedingly hard to secure a low seed and the incentive is rewarded by wearing a figurative target on your back.
Both players combined have accumulated an abundance of accolades over their careers. By his own account, the 58-year-old Simson of Raleigh, N.C., has competed in close to 50 USGA championships, which includes the 1998 U.S. Open and five U.S. Senior Opens. In the 2001 Senior Open, he earned low-amateur honors. More impressive, he’s a two-time Senior British Open champion – he was the runner-up this year – and he has won at least 35 non-USGA amateur tournaments.
Tallent’s résumé compares favorably. A former All-American college basketball player at George Washington University, the 56-year-old Vienna, Va., resident parlayed his athletic prowess with golf. Like Simson, Tallent was the low amateur in a Senior Open (2004), going so far to cite on his media bio form that his gold medal for that effort remains his most memorable golf experience.
In 2007, at age 54, he was named the Virginia Golfer of the Year in the state that boasts heaps of exceptional amateur competitors.
The only variance between Simson and Tallent on Monday was that Simson moved on to the second round of match play after narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of the last match-play qualifier Alan Bouchard, 63, of Falmouth, Maine.
Simson, a past medalist at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, erased a 1-down deficit through 14 holes, winning the following three. A 35-foot birdie make on No. 16 had him seizing control of match. When Simson converted a birdie from 10 feet on the next hole, Bouchard conceded.
“There was some brilliance and there were some uglies, too,” said Simson after the 2-and-1 victory.
The mustachioed Tallent certainly felt ugly after dropping a 4-and-3 tilt to two-time USGA Senior Amateur champion Kemp Richardson, 63, of Laguna Niguel, Calif. Tallent suffered a calamitous day with an ice-cold driver. Oftentimes he found himself in the rough.
Tallent sensed his run might be done on the saucer-shaped 12th green, one of the signature marks of designer Donald Ross. Tallent had the line and proper read. The ball hit the hole, swirled and was spat out like awful-tasting medicine. Worse, the ball finally stopped 4½ feet away. Tallent missed the comebacker.
“I ended up going from winning the hole to losing it,” said Tallent as he sat in his cart.
Aware of Richardson’s pedigree, Tallent – a motorcycle enthusiast – couldn’t get humming at all. He tried kick-starting his game through the first seven holes, holding a 1-up lead, and knowing full well that Richardson, the low amateur at the 2000 U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley where his father won the Senior Amateur in 1987, could get going at any moment.
“He’s a good player,” said Tallent. “He made some mistakes early and I should have capitalized.”
Richardson, 2 up on the 11th hole, gained confidence when he sank a 5-footer to save par and Tallent botched his own 5-footer for birdie.
The match culminated in bizarre fashion on No. 16. Richardson blocked his driver and the ball landed well off line on the 11th fairway. It was then that a squirrel clutched it and starting racing away before dropping it. Under the Rules of Golf, Richardson was allowed to re-place the ball at its original location.
With 200 yards to the green and a cluster of trees as an obstacle, Richardson pulled off a masterful approach with a 4-iron. The ball stopped 8 feet right of the hole.
As luck would have it, Tallent’s approach dropped 5 feet short of the green and became a mud pie. His 33-foot birdie try to live at least one more hole ran out of legs 1 foot short of the hole.
“It wasn’t my day,” said Tallent. “Sometimes it goes that way.”
Simson could empathize as he lost a first-round match at the 2004 U.S. Mid-Amateur as a co-medalist. He felt as though he kept grabbing at low-hanging fruit, but fate was a marionette pushing the branches just high enough out of his reach. That’s when Simson reached deep inside to overcome Bouchard, learning an important lesson along the way.
“I just have to play the golf course,” said Simson, playing in a USGA championship for the 25th consecutive year.
“Sometimes I get hung up on what the other player is doing, and when you do that, you’re asking for trouble.”
Like going home.
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Editor of Digital Media. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.