The top two fin­ish­ers last year, win­ner Har­ri­son Endy­cott and run­ner-up Gavin Hall, are back for the 2017 edi­tion of the tour­na­ment

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - By Mark Gaughan

LEWIS­TON – Two of the world’s top am­a­teur golfers slugged it out in a mem­o­rable fin­ish to the Porter Cup last sum­mer. A rare se­quel is on the hori­zon when the 59th an­nual golf tour­na­ment is held this week at Ni­a­gara Falls Coun­try Club.

Aus­tralia’s Har­ri­son Endy­cott last year ral­lied from four shots down over the last seven holes to win by one over All-Amer­i­can Gavin Hall of Pitts­ford and the Univer­sity of Texas. Both are en­tered again in this year’s Porter Cup, one of the coun­try’s top am­a­teur in­vi­ta­tional events. It runs Wed­nes­day through Satur­day.

“It’s the first time we have the de­fend­ing cham­pion back since Pa­trick Rodgers in 2012,” said Cassie Stein, Porter Cup as­sis­tant tour­na­ment di­rec­tor. “That’s re­ally big for us. It’s im­por­tant when top play­ers come back.”

Five men have won the event mul­ti­ple times­b­u­ton­ly­one­has­goneback­to­back.That was Bob Smith, way back in 1966 and ’67.

Endy­cott and Hall are good bets to be on the leader board Satur­day.

Endy­cott, 21, is ranked No. 17 in the World Am­a­teur Golf Rank­ing, and he’s No. 1 in Aus­tralia. He tied for fourth in the medal round of the Bri­tish Am­a­teur three weeks ago in Eng­land. An Aus­tralian has fin­ished in the top five each of the last five years.

Hall just fin­ished a great ca­reer for Texas. He was sec­ond-team All-Amer­ica as a ju­nior, tied for 11th at the NCAA cham­pi­onships as a se­nior and cur­rently ranks 26th in the world rank­ing. He has placed in the top eight each of his five ap­pear­ances in the Porter Cup, in­clud­ing a tie for sec­ond in 2010 when he was only 15.

Hall is a strong con­tender for one of the 10 spots on the U.S. team that will meet Great Britain and Ire­land in the Walker Cup matches in Los An­ge­les in Septem­ber. The U.S. team will be se­lected af­ter the U.S. Am­a­teur is held is Los An­ge­les Aug. 14-20.

“There’s a cou­ple play­ers still vy­ing for a spot, and win­ning here would help their chances a lot,” Stein said.

An­other is 39-year-old Scott Har­vey of North Carolina, who placed third last sea­son. He won the 2015 U.S. Mid-Am­a­teur (25 and over) ti­tle.

The event, spon­sored by M&T Bank, is free to the pub­lic. Play runs from 8 a.m. to roughly 4:30 p.m. each day. The field is 75 play­ers.

The third week of July is a new spot on the cal­en­dar for the Porter Cup, which tra­di­tion­ally has been held the fourth week of July. Top am­a­teurs his­tor­i­cally have gone straight from Lewis­ton to the Chicago area for the West­ern Am­a­teur, a ma­jor event that runs the first week of Au­gust. That tim­ing, how­ever, has be­come prob­lem­atic in re­cent years, Porter Cup of­fi­cials say.

“It’s a new ex­pe­ri­ence for us,” Stein said. “The West­ern is a very gru­el­ing event. Sched­uled the week be­fore, we found we wouldn’t al­ways get some of the top play­ers be­cause they didn’t want to play a big event go­ing right into the West­ern.”

The West­ern is 72 holes of stroke play, fol­lowed by match play. The fi­nal­ists at the West­ern po­ten­tially play 144 holes.

“This sets up a sched­ule that the play­ers like,” Stein said. “They get a week off be­fore the West­ern. Then there’s a week off af­ter the West­ern lead­ing into the U.S. Am­a­teur.”

The Porter Cup is slot­ted into the third week of July for the next four years. It now will be held on the same week as the South­ern Am­a­teur, which like the Porter Cup has a sig­nif­i­cant his­tory of at­tract­ing top play­ers. The South­ern Am­a­teur each year trav­els to dif­fer­ent cour­ses across the South­east and into Texas. This year it’s at the Coun­try Club of North Carolina in Pine­hurst. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the fields play out over the next four sum­mers.

The top-rated player in the field is Ale­jan­dro Tosti, No. 13 in the world and a sec­ond-team All-Amer­i­can who just fin­ished his ju­nior sea­son at Florida. The 5-foot-6 Ar­gen­tinian made the semi­fi­nals of the Bri­tish Am­a­teur.

Other 2017 hon­or­able men­tion Al­lAmer­i­cans in the field are Vir­ginia’s Derek Bard, Kent State’s Ian Holt and Michi­gan’s Kyle Mueller. Bard was a U.S. Am­a­teur fi­nal­ist in 2015. He won the Mon­roe In­vi­ta­tional in Rochester in June and the New York State Am­a­teur last sum­mer.

Texas Tech’s Hay­den Springer made the round of 16 at the Bri­tish Am­a­teur. Ge­or­gia Tech’s Chris Pete­fish was sec­ond

Ni­a­gara Falls CC in­stalled new greens on holes No. 1, 6 and 9 since last sea­son. The club now has re­built the greens on the en­tire front nine and the par-3 12th the last three years. The rest will be re­built the next cou­ple years.

The new greens of­fer much im­proved drainage, have a tad more slope and tend to play faster. That’s one rea­son it may be tough to chal­lenge the record score of 22-un­der set by PGA Tour player Brian Har­man in 2007.

“I don’t an­tic­i­pate we’ll see a record this year, given the kind of spring we had and the good con­di­tion of the greens,” said Michael Vitch, tour­na­ment co-di­rec­tor. “The rough is thick in spots be­cause of the rain, and the greens are faster than they were when the record was set.”

Har­ri­son Endy­cott, left, is con­grat­u­lated by Gavin Hall af­ter a one-stroke vic­tory at Ni­a­gara Falls Coun­try Club in 2016.

Har­ri­son Endy­cott wears his green jacket and holds the tro­phy af­ter win­ning last year’s Porter Cup at Ni­a­gara Falls Coun­try Club.

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