Simpson settles in on tour
By bill kwon
Special to The Advertiser
By bill kwon
KAHUKU — You can tell Scott Simpson is as local as they come.
Asked if he was familiar with the Palmer Course at the Turtle Bay Resort, site of the Champions Tour's first full-field event, Simpson said he has played it several times, but "no, not a lot."
"It's so far out here. It's in the boonies. It seems like the outer islands when you're out here," Simpson said. This is from a guy driving from Kailua where he was once a part-time resident.
Everything, as they say, is relative.
One thing is for sure, though. Simpson has definitely found a home on the Champions Tour. He can't wait to play at least 25 tournaments on the senior circuit this year.
"I don't anticipate pushing Dana Quigley (the Champion Tour's Ironman), but I do plan on playing a lot," Simpson said.
His only appearance on the regular tour will be at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am because of an offer he can't refuse from comedian Bill Murray.
"It's too much fun. You can't pass that up. As long as he wants to play, I'm going to play."
Talk about golf's odd couple: Mr. Straight and Mr. Caddyshack.
"I really like it out here," said Simpson about the Champions Tour. He shot a 3-under-par 69 in yesterday's windswept first round, eagling the 412-yard opening hole with a 5-iron from 167 yards out.
That put Simpson in a four-way tie for fourth behind leader Loren Roberts. Not bad for a part-time caddie.
Simpson was on the bag for Parker McLachlin in the Sony Open in Hawai'i two weeks ago. He welcomed the news yesterday that McLachlin was in second place in the Nationwide Tour's season opener in Panama.
Simpson knew that the Champions Tour is where he now belongs.
"I know that from watching Parker," Simpson said.
McLachlin was thinking wedge or a little 9-iron for a 140-yard shot. Simpson was thinking, "8-iron, Parker."
Simpson especially enjoys the comfortable atmosphere on the senior tour.
"I like it out here. This tour is really fun, more relaxing. It's nice having only 78 guys, play goes quicker. I'm thrilled to be part of it. And it's nice not having a cut. Oh, man, it's nice. Mentally, you know you're going to leave Sunday. I have zero complaints about being out here."
The caliber of golf isn't shabby either, according to Simpson, the 1987 U.S. Open champion, who played in only four Champions Tour events after turning 50 last Sept. 17.
"I knew there were a lot of good players. But there are more than I thought," Simpson.
Of the local locals, David Ishii, playing his first Champions Tour event on a sponsor's exemption, shot a 1-over 73 as did Dave Eichelberger, an Oahu Country Club member and regular member of the senior tour.
Stan Souza, who gained a spot in the Aloha Section PGA qualifying, posted a 75.
Ishii shook off three bogeys in his first eight holes, two of them because of three-putts, to finish strong with birdies at 9, 14 and 18.
"The way I was putting, 1 over is OK, especially with the wind," said Ishii, who also three-putted the par-4 11th hole.
Playing his first competitive round since Aug. 21 in Seattle, Eichelberger said he wasn't unhappy with his round.
"I played fairly well except for missing two little putts for back-to-back bogeys at 5 and 6," said Eichelberger, who underwent back surgery four months ago.
"The back feels great. No pain at all," he said.
Souza birdied the first hole and stayed at 1 under after 10 holes before three-putting for a bogey. The bogey train didn't stop until the 15th hole.
"It was a little frustrating day. It was a tough day out there. We all battled the elements," Souza said.