McCarthy jumps to early lead in Porter Cup
19-year-old plays Niagara Falls Country Club like it’s home
by Jay Skurski, The Buffalo News
July 19, 2012
LEWISTON — Denny McCarthy almost felt like he was back home in Rockville, Md.
Niagara Falls Country Club’s greens, McCarthy said, reminded him almost exactly of those at Argyle Country Club, his home course.
That comfort showed Wednesday during the first round of the 54th Porter Cup, as McCarthy bounced back from his lone bogey of the day on the first hole to make seven birdies in a round of 6-under par 64. That has him one shot ahead of Texas A&M sophomore Tyler Dunlap and University of Florida senior Tyler McCumber.
McCarthy answered that bogey with birdies on the next two holes.
“Those kind of got my round going,” he said. “I was playing safe all day really. I only hit two drivers on a couple of the par 5s. It was mostly just 3-woods, trying to put myself in good spots where I could attack with short irons.”
McCarthy, playing in his second Porter Cup, needed less than 30 putts in his round, 28 by his admittedly unofficial count.
“I made the putts you’re supposed to make inside 6 or 7 feet,” he said. “I’m really comfortable with the way I’m rolling the ball.”
A 15-foot par save on the par-4 15th hole that came after he sent his second shot over the green into a bunker was one of his better putts on the day.
“That kept my momentum going,” said the 19-year-old University of Virginia sophomore, who was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection last season.
McCarthy’s 64 stood on a day when nearly half the field — 37 of 78 players — broke par.
“You just can’t shoot over par, or else you’re not going to be in the mix,” said defending champion Patrick Rodgers, who didn’t have to worry about that after opening with a 3-under round of 67.
Rodgers was cruising along at 4 under for the round until reaching the 215-yard par-3 16th hole.
He dropped a shot there when he three-putted from the front of the green to a tricky back hole location. Things weren’t looking good when the Stanford sophomore dropped another shot on the par-4 17th after missing the green left and failing to get up and down.
Rodgers, though, drained a nice birdie putt to cheers from the gallery on the par-3 18th hole.
“To make that one on 18 makes it a good day,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories. [Tuesday] was the first time I played since the final round [last year], so it was cool to come back and remember how everything happened. Obviously I have some really good vibes coming out here, so [Wednesday] I just tried to get off to a good start.”
Porter Cup rookies Dunlap and McCumber played bogey free in their opening rounds of 65 to sit just one shot back.
“I hadn’t played up here, so I saw the course for the first time [Tuesday],” said McCumber, who mapped out the course during Tuesday’s Ham-Am. “I found the good spots on the greens.”
The perfect weather conditions were a welcome change from the heat in McCumber’s hometown of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
McCumber birdied both par 5s on the back nine, Nos. 11 and 13, a necessity for those wishing to contend this week given the challenging stretch of holes. He also made an unlikely birdie on the opening hole, after hitting his only errant tee shot of the day.
“I hit my drive wide right and hit a real high pitching wedge over the trees and made about a 30-footer for birdie,” he said.
Player after player raved about the greens. While not rolling especially fast, they were true. Combined with minimal wind, good scores were there to be had on the 6,871-yard layout.
Dunlap is also a Porter Cup rookie, but he’s got some experience playing in upstate New York. His grandparents live in Hamilton, near Syracuse, and he played in last month’s Monroe Invitational outside Rochester.
“I kept it in play off the tee and made a long putt on No. 5, probably 60 feet,” said the 19-year-old Dunlap. “Par was never in jeopardy. The longest par putt I had was probably two feet.”
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