There has been an impressive precedent set at the women’s Porter Cup.
The first two winners of the event have gone on to professional careers after their victories at Niagara Falls Country Club.
That has left tournament director Brian Oakley without a defending champion, but that’s a tradeoff he’s willing to accept.
“The thing is, with both young ladies, they went on to win the low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open,” Oakley said of inaugural winner Casie Cathrea and 2014 champion Brooke Henderson. “That’s a hard act to follow. I don’t know if we’ll be as lucky this year. I’m looking forward to having somebody come back and defend their title, but I wish them all the success when they do decide to go pro.”
A field of 72 players will try to follow in the footsteps of the first two champions when the third Women’s Porter Cup starts Wednesday at Niagara Falls Country Club. Tee times begin at 7:30 a.m.
The field size is nearly double from the 39 players who competed in the first tournament in 2013.
“I could have had a few more, but I want to keep it where we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” Oakley said. “Seventy-two is a nice round number. If we decide to grow it, it will only be because we can’t afford to turn away certain talent. I feel really pleased with the field.”
For the second straight year, all eligible members of Team Canada are in the field. That list is headlined by Maddie Szeryk, who just finished her freshman year at Texas A&M. She is ranked No. 53 in the world by Golfweek in its women’s amateur rankings.
Princess Superal of the Phillipines, who finished tied for second a year ago, is also in the field. She’s ranked No. 55 in the world by Golfweek. The top-ranked American in the field is Jessica Porvasnik at No. 66. She just finished her sophomore season at Ohio State.
There are players from five different countries represented – a number that could be growing soon. Superal’s coach was talking to Oakley during Tuesday’s practice round about how much Henderson’s win in this event last year has resonated globally.
“He’s been in Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, and had people ask him about this tournament,” Oakley said. “It’s gaining a global recognition, which I was thrilled to hear.”
Henderson fired a sublime 62 in the final round in 2014 to win by three shots. She didn’t cool down the rest of the year, finishing in the top 10 in the U.S. Women’s Open. This year, she’s on pace to earn her LPGA Tour card after she turns 18 in September based on her earnings.
That Henderson won as a 16-year-old last season shows how the women’s game can be dominated by young players. That fact isn’t lost on Oakley.
“I think you have to take a look at the demographics,” he said. “Take Princess Superal, she’s 18, and she was playing this well at 14. There are child prodigies out there that you just don’t want to leave out of it.
“You don’t want to put them in over their heads, but I’ve been approached by some coaches who have said, ‘You know what, she can hold her own with this field.’ So I’ve allowed them in, based on their scores and resume. … That’s the way it is. I guess they’re mentally tough.”
The field will also contain a strong contingent of local players – 10 in all from Western New York.
“What’s been nice to see is some of these girls I’ve turned down the first two years, they stayed the course,” Oakley said. “They didn’t give up on their game, and now I can see them going from the high 80s the first year, the low 80s the second year, and now their games are in the mid to high 70s, and that’s what I’m looking for.”
• Buffalo News Deputy Sports Editor Bob DiCesare is going to be exhausted Friday night. That’s because he’s signed up to play 100 holes of golf at Holiday Valley.
Yes, 100 holes. The event serves as the primary fundraiser for the Boys & Girls clubs of Elma-Marilla-Wales and East Aurora. Money raised supports several programs put on by the clubs in those communities.
Those interested can help DiCesare reach his fundraising goal by visiting bgcemw.org and clicking on the 100 holes of golf tab at the top of the page, then clicking on DiCesare’s name.
• East Aurora’s Thad Wier missed the cut in his debut on the PGA Tour Canada over the weekend, shooting rounds of 74 and 76 to finish at 6-over 150, seven shots off the cut line. The par-4 16th hole at Point Grey Golf and Country Club in Vancouver proved problematic for Wier, who made double bogey and triple bogey on the hole in his two rounds.
• Assess one penalty stroke to this column’s author. Last week, I reported that no local players had advanced through local qualifying to sectional qualifying for this month’s 115th U.S. Open, which will be played at Chambers Bay in Washington. Lackawanna’s Liam Friedman did just that, however, as Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz pointed out to me. Friedman has advanced to the sectional qualifier that will be played June 8 at Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase.
• Some updates to the Buffalo District Golf Association calendar for this summer. The men’s mid-amateur championship has moved from June 13 to June 14 at Niagara Frontier Country Club.
The men’s individual qualifier will be held July 27 at Arrowhead, while the men’s individual championship will take place from Aug. 13-15 at Niagara Frontier. The women’s individual championship will be July 29-30 at Gowanda Country Club.