By David Yarger
As July happenings pile up, Western New Yorkers are out and about enjoying the summer weather. Coming up, though, hype is building for the 61st tee off of the Porter Cup golf tournament at Niagara Falls Country Club.
The annual tournament brings some of the best amateur golfers from around the world to the fine golf course atop Lewiston Hill. It also serves as one of the premier events for players looking to boost their resumes and become a professional.
The Porter Cup has a prestigious lineup of past names who are now on the Professional Golfers Association Tour, such as Tiger Woods; the world’s No. 1 golfer, Brooks Koepka; Phil Mickelson, who won the tournament in 1990; legend Ben Crenshaw; Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Davis Love III, David DuVal -- the list goes on and on.
On the NFCC grounds, one can find a plaque where Woods hit a hole-in-one on No. 12.
Nevertheless, the current field of golfers is stepping on to a course with a rich history that has seen some of the game’s best golfers walk its fairways (and rough).
For 2019, the field can be summed up to one word like usual: diverse. According to the list of the 90 golfers participating, 59 amateurs will play in their first Porter Cup. The age range of the golfers is 17-47 and there will be participants from nine countries, including Venezuela, Argentina, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States.
Assistant Tournament Director and Media Chairman Marty Shimmel said the tournament is always an exciting time and this year should be a great event.
“A couple people said what a fun week this is and they always look forward to this week and the events leading up to the Porter Cup,” Shimmel said. “It is a special week. It’s a special week for our club; it’s a special week for the members; and I think it’s a special week for Western New York. … We’re pretty excited about the field we have this year.”
Tournament Director Dena Armstrong noted some of the “must see” golfers who will be participating at next week’s tournament. Although last year’s champion Thomas Walsh is not participating, several top amateurs will vie for the Porter Cup crown.
Armstrong said Chun An Yu is currently the sixth-ranked amateur in the world, according to the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Yu, a senior at Arizona State University, played in the most recent U.S. Open, and was a First Team All American.
Armstrong also noted John Pak, who will play in his second Porter Cup. Pak is a 20-year-old junior from Florida State University who won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship this past year. She said last year’s ACC Champion, Walsh, ended up winning the tournament.
Other notable players expected are Kevin O’Connell, who played in The Masters; Canon Claycomb, a Circle Christian High School senior who is committed to the University of Alabama; Matt Parziale; Garrett Rank; and Scott Harvey, who will play in his 11th Porter Cup.
The diverse field is unique and makes some think, “How can one from Australia discover the Porter Cup?” Armstrong said the diversity of the tournament is really unique and makes the tournament what it is today.
“It’s amazing, because these kids really appreciate it. I went to The Masters last year, and one of the kids that was here last year from Argentina I happened to run into,” Armstrong said. She added she and the golfer shared a fun embrace while watching the tournament.
“It’s great for the community. The people that house the players really get a feel for diversity and it’s interesting to have that here in Lewiston,” she said.
The field has grown over the years, and it seems as if more and more golfers want to be in Lewiston come July for the tournament.
“The response has been great,” Armstrong said while noting the efforts of the tournament’s recruiting staff. “We had meetings like every month that we divided the players up, we divided the conferences up, and everybody was responsible for their own little section. … That’s why it’s grown so much. Between the five of us, we really came up with so many names that the response was terrific.”
In 2007, Brian Harman set the tournament record with an overall score of 258 (22-under). Since then, the lowest has been 263. Of recent memory, scores have come well short of Harman’s record.
Senior Tournament Director J. Fred Silver said, since that record, the NFCC course has been reconstructed and made tougher for its players.
“I think the greens are more difficult to putt, especially the new greens. Our superintendent has made it a point of trying to grow the fringes of the greens a little longer. I think anyone that has watched the last few years, the greens are firm and faster, and if you mishit a shot and roll on to the fringe, it’s very difficult to get it up and down (for par). I think that’s the big difference,” Silver said.
While many players, families and fans come for the golf, the tournament also supplies a healthy boost to the Lewiston economy. Visitors will head into the village or surrounding areas for food and various entertainment.
“It helps Lewiston for sure,” Armstrong said. “A lot of these younger players come with their families, they stay in the hotels, they’re eating dinner, so, yeah.”
The events get rolling on Monday, July 22, with registration and practice at noon.
Tuesday, the golfers are greeted to a continental breakfast at 6:30 a.m., followed by the Ham Am morning shotgun at 7 a.m. Lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. and then the afternoon shotgun begins at 1 p.m. The players’ dinner rounds out the night at 7 p.m. for a cocktail hour, then dinner at 8 p.m.
Wednesday begins round one of action. The first tee off begins at 7:30 a.m. Players will be treated to a barbecue from 5-9 p.m.
Thursday, round two begins at 7:30 a.m. Following the action, players will get a chance to ride the famous Maid of the Mist boat at 6:30 p.m.
Friday will begin with round three at 7:30 a.m. A dinner dance will be held beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday concludes play with the final round. The awards ceremony will take place around 5 p.m.
For members looking to get a round in during the Porter Cup, the course will be available to play after 2:30 p.m. It will not be available on Tuesday, July 23.
For more information regarding the Porter Cup, visit www.portercup.com.