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Simpson grateful he lives

GOLF: It was only two years ago that Champions Tour pro went in for brain surgery. Now he's alive, well and playing Toshiba.

March 11, 2007|By Steve Virgen

NEWPORT BEACH — The ball rolled seemingly perfect toward the cup, but, in the end, No. 17 proved cruel to Tim Simpson.

Just when it looked it would go in, the ball hit the lip, rocked to the right and actually went uphill to miss.

Simpson appeared deflated. He squatted and his chin hit his chest.

"It was one in a million that it wouldn't go in," said Simpson, who shot a five-under-par 66 on his second round Saturday at the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club.

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Though the shot upset him, off the course, it's a different story. Away from the birdies and regretful thoughts, Simpson has much to be thankful for.

Two years ago, Simpson went through brain surgery. He was diagnosed with neurological damage in his left hand, a condition known as benign essential tremor.

But he has responed after the surgery. He was named the Champions Tour Comeback Player of the Year after he competed in 16 events and earned $359,073 to finish 46th on the money list.

"It's been a long road back," Simpson said. "The two-year anniversary was this week for my brain surgery. It's nice to know that I'm getting back closer to where I want to be with my game.

"It's just disheartening when you play as solid as I did today and even five-under is a good score. It should have been eight or nine under no problem. But I thank the good Lord that I'm above the ground and able to play again. I'll come out [today] and try to take it deep again."

Simpson, from Greensboro, Ga., said he focuses solely on golf while on the course, and really doesn't take moments then to cherish his life. He's too busy concentrating and strategizing his shots. But as soon as he gets off the course, he's grateful.

He realizes he's unique, and it's not just because he can hit a golf ball so well. It also has nothing to do with autographing memorabilia, as he did after his round Saturday.

"There's no doubt in my mind I'm as grateful as a person ever was," Simpson said. "I truly am a walking miracle. If you saw me the day before my surgery two years ago, March 1, you wouldn't believe that I'm playing and playing at this level again."

Hale Irwin, who was in Simpson's group Saturday, has taken notice of what Simpson has gone through. Irwin holds him in high regard.

"Anybody that's gone through what Tim has, regardless of what the outcome of his golf game is, I think he's a fortunate man to be where he is and to be able to still play and a play at a very competitive level," said Irwin, Toshiba's lone two-time winner who shot one-under 70 and is at 139. "I think it's fantastic. It takes a lot of heart and a lot of courage for what Tim has done."

EAKS AT HOME

R.W. Eaks, who is two shots back of the lead, is no stranger to the Newport Beach Country Club. Twice he won the Taco Bell Newport Classic at the NBCC in 1995 and 1996.

Eaks has yet to win a title on the Champions Tour.

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