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Brandon Wu seeks rare Porter Cup repeat

LEWISTON – Brandon Wu has been through the Porter Cup once before. He's familiar with the course, is friendly with most of the returning golfers and knows what to expect from the atmosphere.

But things are different this year for Wu: All eyes are on him as the returning champion.

He couldn't even eat his lunch Tuesday without being interrupted by kids asking for his autograph and well-wishers asking how he is.

"It’s cool to see (the kids) all excited coming up to me and asking for an autograph," he said. "I feel like I was in their shoes not too long ago so I know what it feels like. It’s nice to see a smile on their face and give back."

Wu will try to defend his title this this week as the four-day tournament at Niagara Falls Country Club begins Wednesday. He's trying to become the first golfer since Bob Smith in 1966-1967 to repeat.

Wu, 21 and a rising senior at Stanford University, shot 11-under 269 to win last year.

Few have tried to defend their titles, with many turning professional soon after winning, giving Wu a unique chance.

"People have been telling me that it's not often that the champion gets to come back and try to defend so I think this is a cool opportunity," Wu said. "It would be nice to be part of the Porter Cup history. ... It's definitely one of my goals this week."

The Porter Cup has a rich history of bringing in the top amateur players in the world. Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman and many others played here before turning into PGA stars.

The 60th edition of the Porter Cup is no different.

Wu will face stiff competition in Shae Wools-Cobb, who is the highest-ranked player in the field, at No. 31 in the world amateur rankings. He finished third in the Australian men's amateur championship earlier this year. North Carolina's Scott Harvey, who won the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2014, is a 10-time Porter Cup participant and ranked No. 60 in the world. China's Tianlang Guan, who is best known for his Masters appearance five years ago when he was just 14, is also competing. Eight players in the world top 100 are playing this week.

"There are just so many good players out there now that it's so hard to defend," said Cassie Stein, a Porter Cup assistant tournament director. "It’s going to be fun."

Wu is coming off his best season at Stanford. As a junior, he became the go-to guy for the Cardinal, filling the role of Maverick McNealy, who turned pro in 2017. Wu had four top-10 finishes and seven top-25 finishes during the 2017-18 season, including two second-place finishes.

"It was cool to step up and try to fill his shoes and play well and be one of the leaders on the team as an upperclassman," he said. "It was a unique experience. I’m happy to be back at Stanford for one more (year) and excited to see where that goes."

Wu considers the Porter Cup his best win yet. He finished 41st in the LECOM Health Challenge two weeks ago at Peek'n Peak and has just one more tournament before returning to the West Coast.

Wu said he plans on turning pro after his senior season.

"I just think it's awesome to be back," he said of the Porter Cup. "This is probably my favorite event of the summer schedule."

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