LEWISTON — Thomas Walsh needed a way to calm down during the third round of the Porter Cup Friday, so as he walked to the 18th hole, he downed a few sips of beer. He then handed it off to his caddy and hit his final tee shot of the day.
It must have helped. Walsh, 22, is ahead by three strokes heading into Saturday's final round.
"I was a little high-strung there at the end, I was just trying to calm down," he said. "Maybe I’ll start earlier tomorrow."
The rising senior at the University of Virginia shot 3-under 67 Friday, the second-lowest score of the day, and stands at 9-under 201 overall. Shae Wools-Cobb is second at 6-under 204, followed by Tyler Strafaci and Ben Schlottman, tied for third at 4-under 206.
Walsh scored his first collegiate win at the Atlantic Coast Conference championships in April. He set a tournament record with a three-day total of 16-under 200. He credits that win for helping him set a new standard for himself.
"I’m just not getting ahead of myself, and I'm keeping control of my emotions," he said. "I'm not worrying about what other people are doing, I’m just playing my own game. I learned a lot at ACCs this year and I won that. I learned a ton about myself and how to get it done."
He took some time off after that, which he said he used to reflect and take a break from the game. It was hard for him to get back, as he said he fell into some bad habits with his swing. But everything seems to be back in order now.
Walsh's day wasn't perfect. He bogeyed the par-4 10th and struggled on some other shots, but he said he plans on using his experiences to help him stay in control during the final day.
Wools-Cobb started the day off strong but struggled on the third and 12th holes. He entered the day just one shot behind Walsh, but will have more ground to make up Saturday than anticipated. Cobbs is 30th in the world amateur rankings and is the highest-ranked player in the field.
"I played pretty nice all day really, I hit two bad shots which cost me," he said. "Thomas is playing really well so we'll see what happens."
Will Thomson of Pittsford was the top Western New Yorker through 54 holes. The 17-year-old high school senior is tied for fifth at 3-under 207. This is his fifth Porter Cup, and he finished tied for 35th last year. Thomson has already committed to play for the University of Texas.
East Amherst native Ben Reichert, the leader after day one, is tied for 12th at 1-under 209. Reichert hit a hole-in-one on Wednesday en route to shooting five-under 65, but he shot a 76 Thursday. This is his fourth Porter Cup. He finished tied for 42nd last year.
The final round begins at 7 a.m. at Niagara Falls Country Club, with the top group teeing off at 11:50. All of the tee times were pushed up an hour due to a threat of rain late in the afternoon.