Qualifiers make noise through Round 2
By Tim Schmitt, Niagara Gazette
July 30, 2010
Those leafing through the pairings sheet for the 52nd Porter Cup’s second round almost certainly had the trio of Russell Henley, Jin Jeong and Peter Uihlein circled as the day’s must-watch group.
Made sense. All three were in the top five of the most recent incarnation of the Scratch Players World amateur rankings, and Henley was just a shot off the lead after the opening day of play at Niagara Falls Country Club.
But while that high-profile group got the galleries, the unheralded pairing of Garrett Rank, Jake Katz and John Hurley produced the best numbers on Thursday as Rank and Katz — both of whom gained invitations to the tournament through the qualifier — finished with rounds of 64 on a picture-perfect afternoon. Hurley came in at 68.
Henley and Harry Rudolph III stood as co-leaders after the second day as both entered the clubhouse at 8-under-par, but a host of others are nipping at their heels with Rank and Katz among those within striking distance. Harris English was the only other player to shoot 64, and the University of Georgia star is five shots off the pace, as is Katz, a Williamsville native.
Although neither was expected to be hovering around the top 10 with the tournament halfway complete, Rank and Katz had interesting theories about their impressive showings. Rank, who’s heading into his senior year at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said a golf simulator the college acquired as part of a study helped key his recent success. Katz credited course knowledge for a back nine that nearly finished at 29 if not for a putt on No. 18 that ended up a single inch short.
“Being in sixth place at the Porter Cup is something I’m pretty happy with,” said Katz, a SUNY-Binghamton senior who plays out of Westwood Country Club. “I played in this last year and I’ve played the course 40 times since then. It’s made a big difference. I’m not nervous about shots and that relaxes me.”
Katz eagled the par-5 No. 11 for the second straight day and added birdies on 13, 14 and 17 before coming up just short on No. 18.
Rank, meanwhile, was white-hot early on as he stood at 6-under after just 11 holes. The world’s 843rd ranked amateur didn’t seem fazed by a power-packed leaderboard, and he insists that’s due to the simulator, which allows he and his teammates the chance to hit balls on chilly Ontario winter days.
“I’ve had a really successful summer, and I don’t really have any credentials before this summer,” said Rank, who had an ace in the Porter Cup qualifier in last June. “We got a simulator at school and I’ve been playing all winter and it’s helped. All the guys go in there and hit balls each day. It’s tough. There’s a lot of snow up there. You only really get to play about six months a year. The simulator has been a huge help.”
As for Henley, he added another splendid round to a summer that has included a 16th place finish at the U.S. Open. Henley finished with eight birdies on the afternoon, and could be running away with the lead if not for double-bogey on the par-3 No. 7. And if the tournament comes down to the final few holes, Henley should feel pretty good about his chances — he’s birdied the closing hole in each of the first two days.