LEWISTON — Not rain, not wind and not any of the other 83 players in the field could stop Taylor Pendrith this week at the 55th Porter Cup.
The 22-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., handled the elements perfectly on a soaked Saturday at Niagara Falls Country Club, shooting a final-round of 3-under-par 67 to easily lock up what he called the biggest victory of his career.
“Just to look at the names who’ve won this tournament, it’s pretty awesome,” Pendrith said. “It feels very special.”
Pendrith’s total of 16-under 264 is the third-best score in tournament history. His five-stroke margin of victory over Texan Tyler Dunlap is the most since 2007, when Brian Harman blew away the field with a tournament-record 22-under-par.
“He’s making it look easy right now,” said 2012 winner Ricky Werenski, as he watched Pendrith make his victory stroll up to the 18th green. “I didn’t make a single birdie today, so I thought the course was tough. He’s playing it pretty darn good.”
Pendrith began the day with a one-shot lead over Justin Shin, his teammate on the Canadian national team, and was two up on Dunlap. The potential for any final-round drama, however, was largely erased by the seventh hole.
Pendrith opened with four pars, the last of which came thanks to a clutch up-and-down on the par-3 fourth hole.
“I think the momentum changed on the fourth hole,” he said. “I made a 15-footer, and it was a very tough putt. From there, I got a little confidence with the putter.”
Pendrith made his move starting on No. 5. He attacked the pin on the difficult par-4 despite its location tucked behind a bunker, and he converted a 4-foot birdie putt.
On the sixth tee, he took advantage of his prodigious length by bombing a 357-yard drive down the middle, leaving just 60 yards to the pin. He made birdie there to open a four-shot lead.
His tee shot on the par-3 seventh hole, which had the markers moved all the way up to 128 yards, came to rest about a foot from the hole. After that tap-in birdie, he was up six because Dunlap failed to save par from the front bunker.
“I played with him Friday when he had a 63, and he gunned it,” said Australian Brady Watt, who was in the penultimate group Saturday and finished tied for third. “He’s a really deserving champion. I knew I had to go super low today, or he needed to falter, but I was thinking: ‘There’s no way. He’s playing too well.’ ”
Pendrith’s last bit of consternation came on the 10th tee. With the wind at its strongest and the rain beginning to fall steadily, he hit his drive right, perilously close to the out-of-bounds markers. He hit a provisional ball but was able to find his original tee shot in bounds. From there, he saved par.
“I was lucky to get par there. I was actually just trying to make a five actually from that position, but par was a bonus,” he said. “I knew it was going to be difficult. I knew there were going to be a lot of bogeys being made out there with the weather and the wind.”
Pendrith did drop a shot at the par-3 12th hole, but he responded quickly by sinking a birdie on the par-5 13th. Much of the back nine for the final group was played in a steady rain, which made the already difficult prospect of catching Pendrith nearly impossible.
“It was tough conditions out there,” said Shin, who had been 13-under on the back nine through the first three rounds but managed to go just 1-under Saturday.
Shin was happy to see Pendrith become just the third Canadian winner in Porter Cup history.
“He played great golf today,” Shin said. “He stayed calm and hit a lot of quality shots.”
Next on Pendrith’s schedule is the Canadian Amateur from Aug. 6-9. After that, it’s back to Kent State for his senior season. The defending Mid-American Conference champion said a Porter Cup victory will give him confidence.
“I hadn’t been playing particularly well coming into this tournament,” he said. “I just kind of relaxed and said, ‘Well, you haven’t been playing good, you might as well go out there and try and shoot a lot under par.’ It worked. I’m pretty pleased with myself.”
That was evident on the 18th green, when his 6-foot par putt slipped inside the left edge. A shy smile crept across his face as the ball disappeared.
Almost a half an hour later, as he stood on the escarpment with a million-dollar view of Canada behind him and posed for pictures with the trophy in his winners green jacket, the smile still hadn’t gone away.