LEWISTON — If Patrick Rodgers had been told he’d shoot 13-under par prior to the opening of the 54th Porter Cup held at Niagara Falls Country Course this weekend, he would have been pretty confident in his chances of repeating as tournament champion.
This year, though, 13-under wasn’t good for first place, or even second, as it turned out. Rodgers wrapped up his second career Porter Cup in third place, despite shooting one stroke better than his winning score from last year with a 13-under 267.
It wasn’t because his striking was off or because he wasn’t dropping his putts. Rodgers said he finished third simply because the rest of the field played so darn good.
“You can’t really go wrong with 13-under par,” Rodgers said. “I can’t be mad about how I played, especially with the rounds guys like Richy (Werenski) shot.”
Like Rodgers last year, Georgia Tech’s Werenski won this year’s tournament during his first trip to Niagara Falls, shooting a 17-under 263. Denny McCarthy, a junior at the University of Virginia, placed second with a 15-under 265.
It was the first amateur event Rodgers has played in all summer. He’s been too busy playing golf with the pros.
“It’s really nice getting back to amateur golf,” Rodgers said. “The field’s a lot deeper (in the pros), but you still have to go out there and play golf like everyone else. Being able to compete with the guys on the professional level has given me a lot of confidence and I’m excited to be back. These are a lot of fun.”
After winning it all last year, Rodgers, a Stanford sophomore from Avon, Ind., entered the weekend as the odds-on favorite to win the tournament. He was the highest ranked (No. 5) amateur player of the 78-player field according to the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings and was the No. 4 rated collegiate golfer, according to Golf Week Magazine.
Still, in a two-year span, Rodgers has added both a first- and third-place Porter Cup finish to his resume. Not too many other golfers can say that.
“I love coming here,” Rodgers said. “The people are so great. They have so much support for the event. It’s just a really fun week, even outside the golf. … It always draws a good field. I’m really excited to be back and I hope to be back for a few more years.”
Denny McCarthy shot low rounds of 64 and 65 on Days One and Four of the tournament. Werenski had the lowest single-round of the tournament with a 62 on Day Two and Australian Cameron Smith shot a 7-under 63 to take the Day Three honors.
This year Porter Cup organizers shifted the event back one week from its usual start date to avoid losing top players to other professional tournaments. Tournament Director Steve Denn said the decision paid off.
“It went very smoothly,” Denn said. “There’s a few players who we would have liked to have had that were down in the Southern Amateur, but there would have been a lot more players who we wouldn’t have had if we would have kept the original dates. I don’t have any regrets.”
First-time participants fared well in this year’s tournament. After Werenski, three other Porter Cup rookies finished in the top 10 —Tyler Dunlap (T-5), Tyler McCumber (T-7) and Corey Conners (T-9). Dunlap, a 19 year old from Trophy Club, Texas, said his Porter Cup experience couldn’t have been much better.
“I loved it,” he said. “The course was great. Really, it’s just a fun time. You try to play as well as you can, but even if you don’t do well, the people are great, the memories are awesome. … It was just a great experience; a great tournament. I can’t wait for next year.”
The top 23 finishers earned automatic bids for next year’s Porter Cup after meeting the qualifying benchmark set at 2-under par (278) or better for the tournament.
Tim Mickelson, the 35-year-old brother of PGA champion, Phil, fared slightly better than his older sibling in their respective tournaments. While Phil missed the cut across the Atlantic at the British Open, Tim, who is the head coach of the golf team at Arizona State University, shot a 5-over 285 at NFCC, tied for 50th.
James Blackwell of North Tonawanda didn’t fare as well in his first Porter Cup, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell after he exited the 18th hole following a 2-over 72 to a roar of applause and autograph requests from local supporters. While Blackwell’s first tournament didn’t go as planned, he said he still enjoyed himself.
“I was pretty demoralized after the way I shot the first couple rounds, so I was kind of surprised with how well I shot (in the final round),” Blackwell said. “The field was the best I’ve seen. There’s not many times where you shoot 75 in the first round and you’re in dead last place. Overall, though, it was still a lot of fun.”
The tournament’s top local finisher was Matt Stasiak of Clarence who was 11-over on the tournament, tied for 67th overall.
The tournament dates for the 55-and-over Senior Porter Cup were announced for Sept. 5-7.