By Rachel Lenzi
The par-5 holes at Niagara Falls Country Club didn’t agree with Aiden Didone. He felt better on the par 3s.
But Didone got the help of a pair of less-than-fortuitous spins by an opponent and his stiffest competition on the par-4 17th hole, which helped him win the 61st Porter Cup Invitational men’s golf championship Saturday at Niagara Falls Country Club.
Didone and Chun An Yu were tied for the tournament lead as they began the 17th hole. Didone birdied the hole, but Yu missed a putt for birdie from less than 10 feet away.
Then, Yu’s putt for par went around the lip of the cup and spun out. Yu bogeyed the hole, which set up Didone for the win on the par-3 18th. The Australian chipped his second shot from the rough and onto the green, then calmly sank the final shot to complete the tournament.
“There was a lot of nerves there, but I thought, stick to my routine and what I know,” said Didone, who shot a 1-under 69 on the final day of the Porter Cup. “I’m just happy I sunk that putt on 17, and it made it a bit easier on 18. I knew I had to make one putt coming home, and a birdie.”
Didone completed the tournament with a four-day score of 270 (68-68-65-69), two strokes ahead of Yu and John Pak. Didone also won the tournament despite bogeying the par-5 No. 11 and par-4 No. 14 on Saturday.
The 11th hole was particularly troublesome for Didone. His second shot landed at the base of a tree that was well to the right of the putting green, and he chipped the ball behind and off the green in order to set up a shot onto the green.
“I started well all week, holes one to six and one to seven, getting off to a good start,” Didone said. “Part of the middle stretch, I didn’t play the par 5s well this week, at all. But I felt as though I played the par 3s really good.”
Taking a two-stroke lead into the final hole buoyed Didone.
“I knew I had good yardage,” Didone said. “It was 178 meters and I just kind of stayed on a 7-iron there and chipped it on (the green). I had a good buffer, which helped, a lot.”
Yu, meanwhile, shot a personal tournament-high 74 on Saturday, eight strokes off his average score of 66 for the first three days of the Porter Cup, and finished tied for second with Pak at 272. Yu shot 69-63-66-74, while Pak, who golfs at Florida State and is from Scotch Plains, N.J., shot 69-67-69-67.
Yu entered the final day of the tournament leading by three strokes but had a shaky start to the final day. He double-bogeyed the par-4 first and ninth holes, and he bogeyed the par-3 fourth hole.
“The wind was the biggest factor out here today,” Yu said. “Obviously, my tee shot was not really good today, so that cost me, a little bit. Overall, I think I played good. I just missed a couple shots.”
Yu, who golfs at Arizona State, appeared to find his rhythm between the 13th and 16th holes, birdieing the par-5 No. 13 and par-4 No. 15. He made par on Nos. 14 and 16.
The No. 17 hole, however, wasn’t forgiving for Yu.
“It didn’t go in and I was shooting for par,” said Yu, who played in the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2019 and finished third at the NCAA men’s tournament in May. “I kind of had the quick putt and it bounced left, and it was kind of unlucky, but that’s golf.”
Reid Davenport, who plays for Vanderbilt, finished fourth with a 274 (67-65-71-71). Five players tied for fifth at 275: Austin Hitt, Evan Long, Noah Norton, Matt Parziale and Garrett Rank. Rank is an NHL official from Elmira, Ont., who qualified for the 2018 U.S. Open.
Ben Reichert of East Amherst, who golfs for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, finished in a three-way tie for 33rd, shooting a 283 (68-71-73-71).