By Mike Meiler
The nationwide drought that hit Niagara County isn’t just affecting the size of people’s gardens. The scores at the Porter Cup are dwindling, too.
Dry conditions and a consistent heat surge have kept the fairways and greens at Niagara Falls Country Club hard and fast, and the combination of superb conditions and top talent are bringing out the best in the amateur competitors.
Unlike the gardeners scowling over shriveling plants, the golfers are embracing the shrinking numbers on their scorecards. Leader Richy Werenski (12-under) is on pace to break the course tournament record of 22-under and was just two strokes off the 18-hole record of 60 on Thursday. Eight players have shot rounds of 65 or lower, including five on Thursday.
“You’ve got to be really aggressive here,” said Stanford golfer Andrew Yun (5-under), who is playing in his fourth Porter Cup. “Everyone scores so low that you have to go for it, which is a little different than other amateur tournaments I’ve been at.”
“The course is dry, but it’s running hard and fast,” said Australian Nathan Holman (5-under). “I like it. It’s a shorter course and there are some par-5s you’re hitting in two shots. With everyone scoring so well, you really have to take advantage when you have the chance.”
• The drought broke for a bit Thursday afternoon after a morning clouds opened up to a light rain around 2:30 p.m. The rain, combined with swirling winds, made conditions seemingly more difficult, but many of the golfers didn’t seem to mind.
• Making Werenski’s round more amazing was that fact that his was the fifth-last pairing to tee off, meaning while other groups avoided the rain, he played through the majority of it.
• This year’s field is composed of many of the top-ranked college athletes according to golfweek.com, including Justin Thomas (No. 1), Patrick Rodgers (No. 4), Ben Kohles (No. 16), Yun (No. 19) and James White (No. 24).
• The end of the front nine and the beginning of the back half are where the majority of golfers are scoring well. Werenski (6-9), Thomas (7-10), Tyler McCumber (9-13), Carlos Ortiz (7-10) and Lewiston native Mike Boss (10-14) all had extended birdie streaks there.
• Holman said many of the golfers were talking about having trouble on the final three holes. He said they’re shorter holes and it’s left golfers with less wiggle room after their first shot.