By Mike Meiler [email protected] Jul 21, 2018 Updated Jul 21, 2018
LEWISTON — It was a relatively quiet finish to this year’s Porter Cup, and that couldn’t have been better news for Thomas Walsh.
The High Point, North Carolina native took a three-stroke lead into Saturday’s final round and held that the entire way, finishing at 11-under 269 to win the 60th Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club.
While Walsh made things look easy, shooting a 2-under 68 on Saturday to finish three up on the field, he said it was anything but.
“It was the hardest mental battle that I’ve had probably ever,” he said. “I was fighting with myself to not get ahead, not think ahead … and not worry about what my playing partners were doing.”
Walsh could’ve kept a close eye on his partners, Australian Shae Wools-Cobb and Davie, Florida’s Tyler Strafaci, and it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Strafaci entered five strokes back and didn’t sniff Walsh despite a 4-under final round. Wools-Cobb, the only real threat after Friday, bogeyed the opening hole and fell five back after Walsh’s birdie on No. 3.
Walsh, who will be a senior this fall, joins a recent line of Porter Cup success for the University of Virginia. Denny McCarthy became a tournament favorite over the years, winning in his fifth and final try in 2015. And Derek Bard, a relative local from New Hartford, N.Y., played four times, finishing tied for 11th in 2017.
Bard’s brother, Alec, caddied for Walsh on Saturday.
“(Alec) was a huge part of keeping me calm because he was joking around with me the whole back nine, which was huge because I was starting to lose it,” said Walsh, who finished tied for 11th in 2016 in his only other Porter Cup appearance. “I was a little bit nervous.”
That showed on the par-3 18th when Walsh’s tee shot sailed left and landed behind the leaderboard. But he was four shots up, and he calmly took a free relief drop, chipped on and two-putted for the win.
“I know it was probably over, but you never know,” Walsh said. “I probably should’ve went out of bounds, so I was really lucky. It was just a lot of pressure and luckily things went my way.”
The victory is the continuation of a hot stretch for Walsh, who tied a course record in his final round at the Players Amateur last week to finish tied for fourth. He also won the Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golf Championship in April.
Walsh shot 69-65-67-68 at NFCC, taking the lead during the second day and holding it over the final 25 holes.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “I’ve been working toward it all summer. … It’s just cool to have my name on a list with (McCarthy) and represent my school and everything that comes with this.”
He’ll play next at the Western Amateur, which begins July 30 In Northfield, Illinois.
The Porter Cup victory also grants Walsh an exemption into the 2019 LECOM Health Challenge, a Web.com event held each July at Peek’n Peak Resort in Clymer.
“I actually forgot about that,” Walsh said. “That’s really cool. I’ll get my first pro start there.”
NOTES: Strafaci tied Australia’s Blake Windred and Advance, North Carolina’s Ben Schlottman at 8-under for second place. Strafaci and Schlottman were both 4-under on Saturday, while Windred was 5-under. … East Amherst’s Ben Reichert posted another strong round, going 3-under on Saturday to finish tied for 10th at 4-under. It is by far his best finish in four Porter Cup starts. … Grand Island native Kevin Borowicz finished tied for 68th while NFCC club champion James Blackwell, was raised in North Tonawanda, tied for 56th.