Hanzel battles way to windy 68 1st round in Senior Porter Cup

Paul Battson/ContributorDoug Hanzel hits out of the bunker to the left of the green on the second hole.

LEWISTON — With Wednesday’s first round of the 31st Senior Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club, it was no place to be for players who don’t play their best in the wind.

With gusts reaching more than 20 mph and swirling seemingly from every direction, only two players broke par 70 in the Seniors Division — 2015 champion Doug Hanzel with a 68 and last year’s runner-up Michael Hughett who shot 69.

Reigning champion Keith Decker, riding a record three-year Porter Cup winning streak, shot 74.

“I was playing okay, and I bogeyed the last four holes,” he said. “So I finished terrible.”

Problems with the wind? “No, it was just bad shots. I’d like to blame it on something, but it was me,” he said with a laugh. 

Hanzel’s fortunes were the reverse, as he bogeyed the first two holes, then hit all the remaining greens and nearly made a 10-footer for eagle on the par-5 third hole. He added birdies at 11, 12 and 13 on his way to a 3-under 32 on the back nine.

It was a masterful effort given the challenging conditions.

“I had a tough time gauging the distances,” Hanzel said. “Given the wind it was a lot stronger than I thought. On the second hole, what I thought was a nice little 7-iron in there, it came up short in the bunker.”

Hanzel is having a successful year, with victories in the Senior Jones Cup and the Azalea in Florida. He also was a medalist in the U.S. Senior Amateur last week, before losing in the round of 32 “on the last hole. But that’s match play. I lost to a good player.”

Hughett, playing in his second Porter Cup, knows well what Hanzel brings to the course. They have played against each other several times and were paired in Wednesday’s round.

“Last year we played together in the Dixie in the third round and we played in the Azalea earlier this year. I won the Dixie and finished fourth in the Azalea.”

Hughett, who like Hanzel said he had a tough time with club selection in the unpredictable wind, overcame a couple bogeys for a par 35 on the front nine.

“I made a couple of nice putts on the back nine,” he said. “I putted pretty well until the last couple holes and then I got a little timid or something and I didn’t hit the putts as firmly as I needed to. I missed a couple birdie chances on the final holes but other than that I played well.”

Fred Silver, past winner in the Senior and Super Senior divisions, got off to a good start in his bid to add the Legends (70 and older) title to the list.

“I shot my age,” the 74 year-old tournament director said. “That’s always an achievement. I actually played more focused than I have lately.”

He made two birdies along the way including one from about 20 feet at the par-4 15th hole. A bogey at the par-4 17th prevented him from sole possession of the lead when he missed the green.

He is tied with Dale Tepas, the former St. Bonaventure basketball player who was a part of the 1970 NCAA Final Four team led by All-America Bob Lanier. Tepas, now living in Canandaigua, is playing in his first Senior Porter Cup.

Rick Doebler, one of eight players from California in the 97-man field, shot a 72 for a one-stroke lead in the Super Seniors (65 and older). He birdied three of the first five holes.

Patrick Manning is right behind with a 73 after making the turn in 2-under 33. He had three bogeys and double bogeyed 17 for a 40 on the back. He is tied with Rick Dobbs-Hebron of Port Colbourne, Ontario. 

Steve Wilson shot a 73 for a two-shot lead over Skip Snow in the new nine-player Super Legends (75-over) Division.

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