By David Yarger – Niagara Frontier Publications
Year in and year out, the best amateur golfers from around the world storm into Lewiston around the middle of July to play in the Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club. 2018 will be the 60th anniversary of the tournament. A press event Thursday evening announced the stakes will be even higher this year.
In the new banquet hall at the country club, Porter Cup Assistant Tournament Director Cassie Stein and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Health Challenge Tournament Director Michelle Turner revealed the two tournaments have partnered up to give one golfer the opportunity of a lifetime.
As many Lewistonians know, the prestigious Porter Cup is a tournament to help golfers from all over the world show their skills and boost their status as an amateur. Golfers such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have come to Lewiston to play in the event.
The LECOM Health Challenge is a nationally televised Web.com Tour event held at Peek ‘n Peak’s “Upper Course” in Clymer, New York. The Web.com Tour is a “pre-stage” to the Professional Golfers Association Tour. Golfers who participate in Web.com Tour events are another step closer to their ultimate goal of joining the PGA Tour.
The 2018 Porter Cup winner will have the opportunity to play in the 2019 LECOM Health Challenge on a non-restricted exemption, meaning the champion of this year’s Porter Cup will be able to hone their talents in front of thousands at the tournament, and millions watching on Golf Channel. Along with that, the challenge winner takes home $600,000.
Turner said, “The Web.com (Tour) truly is a path to the PGA Tour. Three out of every four tour players have started on the Web.com Tour.”
Turner noted past Porter Cup players have played in the LECOM Health Challenge, including Beau Hossler, Corey Conners, Denny McCarthy and 2017 challenge champion Chesson Hadley.
Hadley, who is currently on the PGA Tour, had four top-10 finishes in his rookie campaign, on his way to winning the 2014 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
In a press release, Hadley said, “As someone who has played in both the Porter Cup and the LECOM Health Challenge, it’s great to see these two events partnering to help advance the golf career of the amateur Porter Cup champion. Both tournaments have been important springboards in my career and I hope the same will be true of this year’s champion.”
The non-restricted exemption the Porter Cup champion will receive is one of four exemptions. Two are restricted exemptions for Web.com Tour individuals, and the other two are non-restricted, open to anyone.
“We’re really thrilled to partner with your historic and top-notch tournament, the Porter Cup. We hope this is a partnership that will continue on for many years,” Turner said.
The two tournaments crossed paths last summer, as Porter Cup Tournament Director Dena Armstrong attended the LECOM Health Challenge. After discussions, Turner said the two events were a perfect pair.
“We thought it was a great fit and, as the months went on, it became more and more exciting – and we thought, ‘Gosh, this would be great for both tournaments.’ … We’re very fortunate and excited to be standing here now,” Turner said.
Partnering up with a professional tour has been on the mindset of the Porter Cup team, but to see it come to fruition was not only big for the tournament, but the WNY area in general, Stein said.
“We always spoke of it; we always wanted to partner with either the PGA Tour or the Web.com Tour, but now that this is the path … it just made the most sense to partner with them and why not bring more business and everything to Western New York?” Stein said.
Stein added that, in about a three-week span, there is the Porter Cup, a Junior Golf Association tournament, and the LECOM Health Challenge all around Western New York.
With stakes set even higher, it’s expected more golfers than ever will want to play in the Porter Cup and use it as a springboard to try and launch their golf careers even further. Stein said she expects more players trying to enter their name into the Lewiston classic.
“This is the path to the PGA Tour now. … When these players get to play in the Web.com tour, they’re just getting that much closer to their ultimate dream in playing on the PGA Tour. So, this is going to bring players from around the world. And even though we have them already, these are gonna bring the top players from around the world; more than we’ve had in past years,” Stein said.
The LECOM Health Challenge is usually played around the week of the Fourth of July but, for the 2019 challenge, Turner couldn’t give an exact date. She cited possible Web.com Tour date changes, but added she hoped the dates stayed the same. Nevertheless, a 2018 Porter Cup champion will be heading to Clymer in the summer of 2019 to compete versus some of the best rising golfers.
For more information on the challenge, visit www.lecomhealthchallenge.com.
With great opportunity looming for Porter Cup golfers, the tournament will also become bigger for fans, too. Attendees could possibly watch the next PGA Tour star bloom right in their own backyard.
The 60th annual Porter Cup is scheduled to run from July 18-21. For more information on the Lewiston classic, visit portercup.com.