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Tournament features international flavor

by Jay Skurski, The Buffalo News

LEWISTON – Even down to the green jacket presented to the winner, the Porter Cup tries to emulate the Masters.

One of the big similarities between the two tournaments is the emphasis both place on international competition.

Craig Hinton of England says he’s impressed with the Porter Cup experience. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Craig Hinton of England says he’s impressed with the Porter Cup experience. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

This week at the Porter Cup, 10 different countries are represented.

“You look at the pro tours and there are very strong players coming from Asia, Europe, South America, places like that,” Tournament Director Steve Denn said. “We want to be representative of that.”

The Porter Cup has long had a strong Australian representation, and that’s true again this year with nine Aussies in the field, as well as one player, Ben Campbell, from New Zealand.

“We’ve had a great relationship with them and they love coming over here,” Denn said.

Because of its proximity to Ontario, there’s also a traditionally strong representation of Canadian players, and this year is no different with 10 in the field.

In recent years, the Porter Cup has seen more players from Central and South America in the field. Included this year are players from Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia.

“They find me, which is flattering,” Denn said when asked how he identifies foreign players who have the profile the Porter Cup is looking for.

“They don’t have the type of budget that [Australia] does, so they might only send one or two players,” Denn said, “but a lot of times it’s their national champion, and we want to make room for those types of players.”

That’s true this year of Jorge Fernandez Valdes, the Argentina Amateur champion, and Sebastian Vazquez, the two-time Mexican Amateur Champion.

This year, the field at Niagara Falls Country Club also includes players from Great Britain and Finland, a rarity since the European amateur calendar is usually packed.

Craig Hinton, a 23-year-old who lives in London, is ranked No. 51 in the world by the Scratch Players World Amateur rankings. He won the Welsh Open Amateur title earlier this year.

Hinton’s been impressed with his first Porter Cup experience.

“I love how the members get involved with dinners and stuff like that, it’s a great set-up here,” he said Thursday after shooting a second-round 73.

Denn, who’s housing Hinton this week, said he hopes Hinton passes along word to his fellow countrymen about the Porter Cup.

“If we have 25 international players in the field, almost a third, that’d be great. That’s kind of the model we keep,” Denn said.

There’s a new hole this year at the tournament. The par-4 second hole, which measures 407 yards, is in use after being under construction last year.

The new hole adds about 30 yards of length, and also sharpens the dogleg right. What had been one of the easier holes at NFCC now presents an option – play it safe in the fairway with a long iron or hybrid and have a longer approach, or try to bomb it over a new fairway bunker with a driver to have a wedge into the rebuilt green.

Construction on the hole was done by Tripp Davis and Associates, a golf architecture firm from Oklahoma. Davis is a frequent Porter Cup participant.

The new hole was designed to actually be a restoration of the original intent of original course designer A.W. Tillinghast in 1919.

Lewiston resident Mike Boss, club champion at NFCC, turned in his career-best round Thursday with a 4-under 66 that included a stretch of five straight birdies, Nos. 10-14.

“It feels good. I’m excited for [today],” he said. “I’m got to try and keep it under par, see if I can do it again. Maybe the putter will get hot again.”

Boss holed out from the sand for birdie on No. 10, and also made a 25-foot putt on No. 12. He started his round bogey-bogey, but chipped in for eagle on the par-5 third hole to get back to even for the day.

He’s at 1 under for the tournament, in a tie for 28th place and leading the five local players in the field.

Clarence’s Matt Stasiak also had a strong second round, shooting 3-under 67 that moved him up 26 spots, into a tie for 44th at 1 over for the tournament.

Buffalo’s Chris Covelli shot a 3-over 73 in the second round, while North Tonawanda’s James Blackwell shot 76 and Hamburg’s Brian Jurkiewicz finished with a 79.

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