LEWISTON – The relationship between the Porter Cup and Canada is easy to understand from a seat on the back patio of Niagara Falls Country Club.
From high atop the Niagara escarpment, there’s a can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it view of the Niagara River below snaking between two countries.
It’s enough to make you want to tee up a Titleist and take a shot at landing a ball in Queenston.
Last year, after Ontario’s Taylor Pendrith ended a 28-year drought for Canadian men by winning the tournament, an impromptu version of “O Canada” broke out as he accepted the trophy.
It might be time to cue up the chorus again.
Four of the top five spots on the leader board after two rounds of the Women’s Porter Cup are occupied by our northern neighbors, including leader Jennifer Ha, a 20-year-old from Calgary.
She shot a sparkling round of 6-under 65 Thursday that included two eagles, giving her a two-round total of 8-under 134 and opening a three-shot lead over 21-year-old Brittany Marchand of Mono, Ont., – her teammate on the Canadian national women’s amateur team.
“With the welcome we’ve had, we’ve certainly not been treated as outsiders, but as locals,” said Tristan Mullally, the Canadian national women’s team coach.
Ha certainly looked at home Thursday, running off nine straight pars to open her second round before carding 30 on the way in. Her score of 65 matched the Women’s Porter Cup record set in the inaugural event by champion Casie Cathrea, who has since turned professional.
“I hit my woods really solid today, so it gave me a lot of opportunities, especially on the par 5s,” Ha said.
She took advantage of those on the back nine twice, first at No. 12. After a solid drive split the fairway, Ha knocked a 20-degree hybrid to within 6 feet and then converted the downhill eagle putt.
On No. 17, which plays as a par 4 for the men and has been converted this week to a par 5, she again reached the green in two after a solid drive and another fairway wood. She then converted a 20-foot eagle putt.
“I don’t think I’ve ever made two eagles in one round,” she said afterward with a beaming smile. “It was pretty awesome.”
There are five members of the Canadian women’s amateur team competing this week. All are in the top 100 of the World Golf Amateur Ranking, and all are in the top eight of the leader board through two rounds.
Marchand shot a 3-under 68 Friday for a two-round total of 5-under 137. They’ll be joined in today’s final threesome by 17-year-old Princess Superal of the Philippines, who is at 4-under 138 after a round of 3-under 68 Friday.
Team Canada members Augusta James and Brooke Henderson, the world’s No. 3 amateur player, are in the penultimate group today after rounds of 1-under 70 and 3-under 68, respectively.
“Having seen this event last year … we knew this is something we wanted to support,” Mullally said. “The club here has been awesome. They’re experts at what they do here. It’s really easy for us to just come in, practice, and do our thing.
“It’s a tournament that we know is going to be great in the future. It is already, but it’s going to grow and get better. It’s good to be at the grass-roots of it and get on board now.”
When the men’s event started in 1959, it wasn’t even known as the Porter Cup. It was called the International Invitational, a name that suggested its proximity to the border.
“Canadians go back as far as the tournament does,” said men’s Porter Cup director Steve Denn, who’s spent this week caddying for Henderson. “They’re obviously right next to us, so it just makes sense. … Hopefully they’re going to enjoy their experience and it becomes something where we get them to come down every year.”
The low Western New Yorker in the 65-player field through two rounds is Clarence’s Cat Peters. She’s at 8-over 150 after a round of 3-over 74 Friday.