This year’s Porter Cup, whenever it gets underway, will have a throwback feel.
As the tournament has grown over the years, so has its prestige. Fields once populated largely of middle-aged career amateurs and top locals gave way to collegiate stars bound for the pros.
For a number of reasons, some related to COVID-19, the field for the 62nd Porter Cup is a bit less glamourous. Its top-ranked player, 33-year-old Garret Rank (No. 43 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking), is best known for being an NHL referee.
Because of the pandemic, tournament officials decided not to house players with Niagara Falls Country Club members, an attraction that cuts costs for players while building a sense a community. Instead, players this year are responsible for their own lodging.
Along those lines, some golfers have been hesitant to travel far to play. This year, the Porter Cup is scheduled at the same time as the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, and players from crucial west coach recruiting states like California and Arizona have elected to stay closer to home.
Finally, the Walker Cup, amateur golf’s version of the Ryder Cup, was moved from its usual September date to May, in part to entice top American collegians to take part before going pro. But the usual September date makes summer play crucial for amateurs hoping to earn a selection, and tournaments like the Porter Cup are an opportunity to enhance their resumes.
Add it all up and this year’s field is much more traditional than recent years. When play finally does open Thursday — today’s opening round was rained out — Rank will be grouped with Nick Cassini, who won the 2001 Porter Cup while still attending the University of Georgia.
There’s also a bevy of locals, including six from Niagara County.
North Tonawanda native Matt Pawlak and Sanborn’s Anthony Delisanti will represent Niagara Wheatfield, Pawlak after his senior season at Niagara University and Delisanti heading into his freshman year at Valparaiso. Stosh Kajfasz, a Niagara Falls native and the NU men’s golf head coach, will join Pawlak in rocking the purple and white.
The Falls’ Paul Kudela, Kajfasz’s cousin, a Niagara Falls police detective and member of the Niagara Falls City School District board, played his way in by winning NFCC’s club championship. The man he beat, GI’s Nicholas Morreale, a Porter Cup veteran as NFCC’s rep in years past, made the cut.
Lewiston-Porter junior-to-be Rocco Randazzo joined Kajfasz and Morreale and injury replacements after taking part the annual Porter Cup qualifier, which was won Monday by 16-year-old Charlie Fischer from Orchard Park.
Fischer won the qualifier with a 68, beating Jack Angelucci (Mercyhurst College) and James McHugh (Penn State) in a playoff. All three made the field, as did the rest of the qualifier’s top eight: Louis Olsakovsky (Penn State), Andrew Kotler (Kenyon College), Rochester’s Ben McBane (St. John Fisher), Eric Lifson (Kenyon College) and Daniel Gianniny (St. Bonaventure).