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How the final Porter Cup round was played: Falls native fulfills his dream

LEWISTON – Tony Bagneschi waited nearly 30 years for his second Porter Cup experience.

A Niagara Falls native and current resident of Scottsdale, Ariz., Bagneschi caddied for winner Tony Mollica in 1988. He went from carrying clubs to using them this week after advancing through the qualifying tournament last month.

“I played really well in the qualifier,” Bagneschi, 42, said. “I tried to choke it away at the end, but shot 1-under and got through. … This is a fun experience for a guy who plays a couple times a week if I’m lucky. To come home and try to compete with these guys is fun. Get four rounds in and see where the game is.”

Bagneschi is a partner in Insight Land & Investments, a boutique real-estate company that works with land developers and builders in the Phoenix area. He plays two or three times a week and is a scratch handicap.

“It’s something to get the competitive juices flowing,” he said.

Bagneschi graduated from La Salle High School in 1992 and went to Ferris (Mich.) State University. From 1996 to 2000, he worked as a club professional in both Manhattan and Florida during the winter.

“I’d go down there and play some mini-tour events,” Bagneschi said. “I didn’t have the drive to compete with those guys. It takes a lot, and I wasn’t focused back then.”

He headed west in 2000 to the Phoenix area, and didn’t play for about five years. After picking the clubs back up, he returned to playing competitively about four years ago. He’ll play in a handful of Arizona State Golf Association events and select team tournaments across the country. He’s a member at Whisper Rock Golf Club, the Phil Mickelson-designed course that counts about 25 PGA Tour players as members.

“In the fall, after the Tour season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, if we’ve got a scratch game with 20 guys, there’s 10 Tour pros, so it’s fun,” he said.

He had attempted to qualify for the Porter Cup “four or five” times before getting into the field. One of Bagneschi’s best friends, Brent Gadacz, is a member at Niagara Falls and the two partnered up for the club’s member-guest tournament. That gave Bagneschi some time to prepare for the qualifier, and he “finally got through.”

Bagneschi opened with a round of 77, then followed up consecutive 75s. He closed his first Porter Cup on Saturday with his best round, a 3-over 73.

Another ace: The Porter Cup saw its third hole-in-one of the tournament, with Canadian Garrett Rank holing out on the 186-yard seventh hole with a 6-iron. It was Rank’s fourth career hole-in-one and second one at Niagara Falls Country Club.

Oh, Canada: Rank wasn’t the only Canadian to have a solid final round. Jared du Toit, the 21-year-old who captured the golf world’s attention by finishing ninth in the Canadian Open last week, moved up 11 spots on the leader board into a tie for fourth after a 3-under 67.

He was joined by countryman Josh Whalen in a tie for fourth at 4-under 276.

Honors for Harvey: Porter Cup veteran Scott Harvey, competing in his eighth event, finished in solo third place at 5-under 275 after a round of even-par 70 Saturday. Harvey won the tournament’s William McMahon Award for the second straight year. Given annually to the qualifying medalist of the U.S. Mid-Amateur, the award consists of a contribution to the winner’s charity of choice, as well as an exemption into next year’s Porter Cup.

Welcome back: The top 25 and ties earn invitations to the 2017 Porter Cup. This year, that cut fell at 1-over 281.

Going low: The best score Saturday was 4-under 66, shared by three players: Winner Harrison Endycott, Viraat Badhwar and Alejandro Tosti (both of whom tied for sixth at 3-under 277).

Up next: The 2016 Senior Porter Cup will be held from Sept. 7-9.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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