A long shot. That's how Paul Simson viewed his chance of even qualifying for the U.S. Open. Simson took a swing at making the field at Olympic only to get qualifying experience for next year's Open at Pinehurst. Surprise!
"(It was a) great surprise to make the tournament," Simson admitted, "But I birdied the second hole of a playoff. And then just the realization of playing with all those great players is a difficult thing to deal with."
Simson adjusted quickly with a birdie on the first hole. Then he chipped in on number three to go two under.
"It was one of those shots you think you can make but you don't imagine doing it," recalled Simson. "But I chipped it. It rolled in. I think the startling thing was the crowd."
Back on the practice range at the North Ridge Country Club, Simson can still hear the crowd, but he can only contemplate what might have been. On the tenth hole, he lost his tee shot and was forced to take a penalty despite reports a spectator had run off his golf ball.
"If I had made the cut, it wouldn't have been a big thing," Simson said. "But since I missed it, it turned out to be a really big thing."
He missed by a shot. The competitor's tag still adorns Simson's bag. He remembers the words of Phillip, his son and caddy.
"`The Open seems closer,'" Phillip said. "I was out there. I competed. I held my own. He's correct. It's a lot closer," Simson explained.
Next year in the North Carolina sandhills, Simson feels it'll be more difficult for him to qualify. Yet he's ready to chip in another birdie.
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