For the third day in a row, Ohio native Ray Sovik led the field of 81 golfers competing in the 21st annual Senior Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club. For the second year in a row, Sovik left wearing the tournament crown.
Sovik, 59, of Powell, Ohio, scored a 2-over-par 72 Friday and shot a 54-hole total of 209 during three rounds under a blanket of clouds in Lewiston. Northville, Mich., resident Gary Cloutier, 67, won the Super Senior division (65 years and older), after a 74 Friday gave him a three-round total of 215.
After accepting his crystal championship trophy, Sovik explained that it's more than just love for the game of golf that draws him back to Niagara Falls Country Club.
"It seems like a long time ago that I came here when I was a young college kid," said Sovik, a former Ohio State golfer who first played in the 1972 Porter Cup. "I remember it being really special. I remember the prestige and notoriety of the tournament."
The tradition of the Porter Cup is what gives the Senior Porter Cup national popularity, said tournament director Fred Silver, who was the only local golfer to finish in the top 15, and who also participated in the 1972 tournament with Sovik.
"The fact that it's 'The Porter Cup' gives us instant credibility," Silver said, referring to the annual tournament that takes place at Niagara Falls Country Club each July and attracts some of the nation's best collegiate and mid-amateur golfers. "We invite the top 50 seniors in the country who are nationally ranked. It's one of their favorite events to come to, or so they tell me."
Out of the 81 golfers teeing off in this year's tournament, only nine live in Buffalo or the surrounding area while 72 hail from places outside of New York. Runner-up Rich Morrison, 56, made the trip from Marana, Ariz. to play in his first Senior Porter Cup.
"Anybody that plays amateur golf knows the Porter Cup," he said. "It's got the tradition and the history. This time of year it's a great place to be."
Sovik couldn't remember whether he finished fifth or sixth in his first Porter Cup tournament (tied for sixth), but as he stood out on the patio, with the Niagara Escarpment and a view of Toronto behind him, he said he never forgot the beauty of the course he first set eyes on in 1972. More than 30 years later, aside from a bunker or two, not much has changed, said Silver.
"It's still the same course he remembers," he said.