Western New York golf competitors and fans are treated to a number of events worth viewing and playing each June and July. The list begins with the Women’s Porter Cup, continues to the International Junior Masters, the Erie County Amateur, and ends with the Porter Cup. Each is an annual pilgrimage for me. I photograph and report on all but the ECA, which I’ve played each year it was held.
Wait. That’s not true. I missed the sixth playing of the County Amateur, held at Elma Meadows in early July. I missed the IJM and the PC. The only one I attended was the WPC, and that only due to fortuitous scheduling. What happened to 2017? What did I miss? Here’s a run-down of things that happened, in part one of Lost Summer of 2017.
International Junior Masters
The East Aurora country club has worked with Canadian architect Ian Andrew to return its course to what Styles and Van Kleek had in mind when they laid it out. The work takes time, but the results will certainly make the course an even finer host for one of the important, national junior invitationals. The 2017 playing was an off year for Buffalo-Niagara golfers. Two Rochester-area golfers and one Niagara Falls, Ontario competitor advanced to the Championship flight, and one (Daniel Gianniny) went on to win the tournament in electrifying fashion. Down 1 hole with four to play, Gianniny finished 2-3-3 (four under par) to win, 2 Up, over Billy Watson of Australia.
Three top area juniors qualified into the Platinum flight, formerly known as the Consolation bracket. Matt Genaway, Matt Jeffe and Cary Ignaczak won 0, 1, and 2 matches, respectively, in that flight. In the Gold flight, Jake Roach of East Aurora was one of seven area golfers to compete, and he marched to victory by 2 and 1 in the final. East Aurora country club offers many brilliant spectating spots, which also translate into great vantage points for photography. It’s a spectators dream and not to be missed. Put it on your schedule for 2017. I’ll see you there.
Erie County Amateur
The Erie Country Amateur was contested for the 3rd time at Elma Meadows golf course, pride of Erie County. With the course in top shape, thanks to the efforts of Corey Randall and staff, it seemed that this would be the year that one of the Hanes brothers (Billy and David) would join sister Michelle (2012) as winner of the county title. It took a fellow from Minnesota, in town for a summer internship, to derail that effort. Daniel Lensing, a student and golfer at Bradley University in Indiana, played marvelous golf from start to finish. His 141 total over two days bested David by 5 and Billy by 6.
The ECA switches from Elma Meadows to Grover Cleveland each year, and the two courses could not be more different. Grover places a premium on putting, as many of the back-nine holes are short as can be, with diabolically-sloped putting surfaces. In contrast, Elma Meadows is a greater and more balanced challenge, with the winning score typically being around par. Easily the most enjoyable tournament for golfers to play each year, I plan to return in 2018.
This is the fan’s dream. Free admission and the stars of tomorrow’s professional golf. A super-dramatic back nine, and the promise of birdies and shots the way we wish we could hit them. Since 2010, when Gavin Hall tied Peter Uihlein for 2nd, at the ridiculous age of 15, the Niagara Falls course and the tournament appeared to fit his game perfectly. It wasn’t a question of when he would win, but how many times. With Hall poised to turn professional in the fall, zero wins in 7 attempts seems ludicrous, but that’s the way it played out. Shortly after his debut at the PC, Hall injured his wrist playing basketball. He would miss the 2011 playing, and would take a full two years to return to the player he was. Hall entered the 2017 Porter Cup as the 33rd-ranked amateur golfer in the world. He departed with the #24 ranking, but only a top 3 finish. Brandon Wu, a Stanford university student-athlete, fired 64 on Saturday to run off with the trophy.
I missed being out with the dewsweepers for Wednesday’s opening round, just as I missed the heat of a Saturday sun, beating down on the players chasing glory. With fortune, 2018 will offer me both of those opportunities once again.
In the second installment of this tale of a lost summer, I’ll tell you what I found during my time away from golf. Hopefully, you’ll stay tuned.