BY BILL McGRATH
LEWISTON — Aiden Didone is the latest Australian to hear about the Porter Cup from his fellow golfers and thought he’d accept an invitation and see for himself. He’s glad he did.
The 21-year-old from Melbourne became the fourth Australian to win the championship with a final round 69 for a 10-under 270 Saturday that helped him overtake tournament favorite Chun An Yu for a two-stroke victory in the 61st Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club.
With both players grinding it out all afternoon, the outcome would come down to the infamous par-4 17th hole with its narrow fairway, numerous bunkers and elevated green.
Yu, ranked sixth in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, led Didone by three strokes going into the final round, but shot a 74 that included three double bogeys. He finished at 8-under 272, tied with fellow first-team All-America John Pak.
“Nothing was easy today and the wind was a factor,” Yu said. “I had trouble with the tee ball all day.”
He double-bogeyed the first hole and when Diodote birdied the par-5 third hole they were tied at 10-under par. Diodate took the lead after Yu bogeyed the par-3 fourth hole and the margin grew to two strokes after the Aussie birdied the sixth hole.
Diodote’s biggest lead was three shots but he almost lost it all at the par-5 11th hole when his second shot went right and rolled to the base of a tree. After conferring with a rules official he decided to chip it out.
The ball landed in the tall rough behind the green and rolled down across a cart path. He chipped from there, setting up an 8-footer for par, but was unable to convert.
Yu took advantage with a 3-foot birdie putt after his second shot caught a bunker on the left side. The Arizona State junior was suddenly a stroke back with seven holes to play.
His momentum vanished with a double bogey at the par 3 12th when his tee shot landed in a left-side bunker, but he rebounded with a curling birdie from about 10 feet at the par-5 13th. Yu tied it with another birdie at 15 after Diodote bogeyed 14.
Back and forth it went and now they were tied approaching the dangerous finishing holes. They remained tied at 9-under after pars at the par-3 16th hole, but Pak was lurking at 8-under after finishing two groups ahead of the leaders.
A playoff, perhaps involving all three, was a possibility. Yu and Diodote were on the fairway and hit the green in regulation at 17. Yu left his birdie putt short by a few feet and watched as Diodote pumped in his birdie try from about 8 feet for the lead.
“There was a lot of nerves there,” Diodote said. “But I stuck to my pre-shot routine and what I know and I was happy to sink that putt. I knew I had to make one birdie putt coming home.”
After watching Diodote celebrate his shot, Yu needed to make par to stay in contention. His three-foot putt looked as if it was headed for the hole but lipped out.
Pak, who gave his buddy Yu a hug when it was over, had to wait for about 20 minutes to see if he might get into a playoff. The Florida State junior’s 67 was the best round of all the contenders.
“I didn’t make any mistakes today,” he said. “I got up and down when I needed to.”
What was going through his mind waiting for the final threesome to finish?
“I’m always rooting for my competitors and I’m a really good friend of Kevin’s (Yu). I was prepared for whatever happens. If a playoff came, I was ready for it.”
Diodate was the only Australian in the field. There are usually several who include the Porter Cup in their summer schedules but it didn’t work out this year. Simon Nash (2002), Geoff Drakeford (2014) and Harrison Endycott (2016) are the other players from Down Under to slip on the champion’s jacket.
CHIP SHOTS: Matt Parziale and Garrett Rank tied for low mid-amateur (25 and older) at 5-under 275 … Ben Reichert of East Amherst shot 3-over 283 as the top player from Western New York. Others included Nick Morreale (Grand Island) 287, James Blackwell (Buffalo) 288, David Hanes (Buffalo) 304 and Kevin Borowicz (Grand Island) 30 … Will Thomson, 18, and playing in his sixth Porter Cup, shot 66. He’s from Pittsford and just completed his freshman year at Texas.