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Lewiston teen gets taste of top-level golf at Porter Cup

LEWISTON – Victoria Parker’s schedule has taken her from New Jersey through Pennsylvania, down to Florida, Georgia both Carolinas, and back to New York since October.

So it was a nice change of pace to play a round in her own back yard Wednesday.

Parker, a 17-year-old from Lewiston, was one of 10 local players to tee it up in the first round of the third annual Women’s Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club.

“Ridiculously busy,” is how Parker describes her schedule. “It’s every weekend. It’s definitely very tiring, but I can handle it.”

Parker’s opening round of 11-over 82 in the first round Wednesday was a disappointment, especially considering her recent form. She is coming off a victory in the Ravenwood Open, an invitational tournament for the top girls players ages 16-18 in Buffalo and Rochester. Parker shot a round of 3-under 69 to win, including a pair of eagles, including one on a chip-in.

“I didn’t expect that,” she said. “I chipped it and it was just trickling down. I was going to put my wedge away and then it went in, and I was like, ‘oh, ok, that works.’ ”

Parker was also named the International Junior Golf Tour’s Girls Player of the Year for the 2014-15 season. She won three events – two in October in Pennsylvania and one at Mendon Golf Club outside Rochester – during the season, with three more third-place finishes.

Parker, who will graduate from Sacred Heart next week, is taking next year off from school as she pursues an aggressive playing schedule. Although she lives in Lewiston, she’s a member at Orchard Park Country Club, where her mother, Donna, and grandparents are also members. Parker, who has been playing for only four years, has been working with local instructor Gary Battistoni for about 18 months.

In that time, her game has grown rapidly. But because she’s a bit of a late bloomer, interest from college programs was not substantial.

“Being up north, they don’t really look at us,” Parker said. “They look at a lot of southerners because they play all the time and it snows here. They don’t expect us” to be able to play.

Parker admitted to being nervous Wednesday, as the 72-player field features players ranked among the top 100 female amateurs in the world.

“I started off rough, but the back nine was better,” she said. “This event is great, because it gives me an idea of what I’m going to see as I get older. … It took me a few holes, but when I turned to the back, I was like, ‘swing easy and don’t let any nerves get to you like they did on the front.’ ”

Parker said her goal for the final two rounds will be to shoot near par, which is 71 this week, with the par-4 17th hole being turned into a par-5 on a course that plays 6,871 yards from the tips.

“I’ve got to get it on the green more and keep it in the fairway,” Parker said.

After this week, Parker has a brief reprieve before she plays a USGA Girls Amateur qualifier June 15 at Ravenwood. That’s followed by a Hurricane Junior Golf Tour event in Kentucky on June 20, a Junior PGA qualifier at Hickory Stick on June 30 and the North-South Junior Girls Amateur at Pinehurst in North Carolina from July 6-8.

During a postcard-perfect first round Wednesday, Canadian Josee Doyon took the lead with a round of 3-under 68. A group of three players – Ana Paula Valdes, Jennifer Ha and Jessica Porvasnik – are two shots back in a tie for second, after opening with rounds of 1-under 71. A pair of local players in Lewiston’s Maren Cipolla, an NFCC member, and Clarence’s Catherine Peters, are just five shots back after opening with rounds of 2-over 73.