LEWISTON — From the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to the Porter Cup, Thomas Walsh's season just keeps rolling.
The University of Virginia senior, winner of the ACC championship in April, cruised to victory Saturday in the 60th Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club.
Walsh led by as many as six shots during the final round and finished at 11-under 269. He ended three strokes ahead of Tyler Strafaci, Blake Windred and Ben Schlottman, who tied for second at 8-under 272.
"It’s incredible," Walsh said. "I’ve been working towards it all summer, and a teammate of mine won it three years ago. So it's cool to have my name on the list with him and represent my school."
A crowd of upwards of 50 people followed him throughout the day, with more stationed at the 18th hole.
Walsh took the lead on the 15th hole of the second round and lost it only once — late in the third round to Australian Shae Wools-Cobb. Walsh blamed nerves for a few mistakes he made throughout the tournament.
"It was the hardest middle battle I’ve had probably ever," Walsh said. "I was fighting with myself to not to think ahead, not get lugged in with the fans. It was really cool having them out there but I was trying to keep calm and play my own game and not worry about what my playing partners were doing and keep it as simple as possible. My caddy was a huge part of keeping me calm because he was joking around with me the whole back nine which was huge, because I was starting to lose it. I was a little too nervous."
Walsh's lead was cut down to three at the 12th hole as Strafaci, Windred and Schlottman tried to catch him. He hit his worst shot of the tournament on the par-3 18th hole, when his ball landed in a spectator's blanket. The officials ruled that it was still in bounds and that they could move the blanket, enforcing the one-club relief rule.
"I knew I had a four-shot lead and I knew it was probably over but you never know," Walsh said. "It should have gone out of bounds so I was really lucky. It was just a lot of pressure. Luckily things went my way."
Walsh won the Porter Cup without having the lowest score in any round. He'll get an exemption into next year's LECOM Health Challenge, which he said he plans to use as his first professional event. For now, he plans on finishing his summer with the Western Amateur in two weeks and the U.S. Amateur qualifier, before heading back for his final college season.
Walsh now joins an impressive list of Porter Cup champions, many of whom have gone on to become households names on the PGA tour, including most notably Phil Mickelson.
"Just to see that list and add my name on there, that’s something I’ll never forget and cherish forever," Walsh said.
Ben Reichert was the top golfer from Western New York. The East Amherst native finished tied for 10th — his best finish at the Porter Cup — with a score of four-under 276.
"I haven’t played particularly well here until this year," said Reichert, who played in his fourth Porter Cup. "I finally figured out how to conquer this place this year, at least to a degree. Hopefully I can better this next year."
Reichert, a junior at the University of Mississippi, led the tournament after the first day of competition but fell off track during the second round when he shot a 76.
"It was a great week," he said. "This tournament is as good as it gets, and to finish the way I did it’s pretty cool."
Will Thomson, a 17-year-old from Pittsford, finished tied for 12th with a score of 3-under 277. Last year's champion, Brandon Wu, who was trying to become the first golfer since Bob Smith in 1967 to repeat as champion, finished tied for 49th at 10-over 290.