Call it the power of the Porter Cup name.
Before even getting too far into the process of sending out invitations, the inaugural Women’s Porter Cup set for June 12-14 at Niagara Falls Country Club has already attracted one of the country’s elite female amateur golfers.
Meghan Stasi, who’s won four of the last seven United States Golf Association Women’s Mid-Amateur championships, reached out to event organizers with an interest in participating.
Of course, she’ll have a spot in the field, which will be capped at 60 players.
“The fact she reached out to us says a lot,” said Lewiston resident Brian Oakley, who’s serving as tournament director. “The inquiries have been coming from as far as Taiwan and New Zealand. I didn’t realize there was such a large interest in women’s golf until, of course, you get yourself into the middle of it.”
The women’s event is the third branch of the Porter Cup tree, joining the men’s event held annually in late July, and the Senior tournament held in September. In an already short golf season, that’s a noteworthy sacrifice by the NFCC membership.
“In the environment of country clubs today, you want to be as open and accessible to both the public and your membership as you can,” Oakley said. “With the response that we get with the men’s Porter Cup, we hope that some of the locals will embrace the women’s as well.
“We seem to have so much popularity on the men’s side, and we had some people mention to us that the ladies don’t get the same opportunities. So we put it to the community and said we’d consider doing it. We didn’t really know what kind of response we’d get, if there’d be enough interest in it at all. But, suffice to say, we started to get some traction with it.”
Rene Sobolewski, Michelle Hanes, Cat Peters and Chelsea Dantonio are four local players who have been extended invitations. Hanes is the 2012 women’s Erie County amateur champion, while Peters won the state high school championship last year and is currently a freshman on the University of Michigan golf team. Sobolewski is a junior on the Vanderbilt golf team, and through the end of March had participated in all eight of the Commodores’ tournaments.
Oakley said he hopes to have at least 25 percent of the 60-player field made up of local players from Western New York and Southern Ontario. The 54-hole tournament will not have a cut.
Invitations will be sent out to players in the Golf Week top 100 women’s amateur rankings, as well as sent to college coaches around the country, targeting their top players.
Given that the event is in its first year, the 2013 tournament will serve as something of a trial balloon.
“Obviously we’re going to get our feet wet on this one and see how it works out and then make a decision about going forward in future years. So it would be premature to say this is an annual event that we’re actually standing behind, because we don’t know what we don’t know,” Oakley said. “We’re just going to take one turn at a time and see what the reaction is. Frankly, I’m excited.”
Justin Regier, son of Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier, participated in the first stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School last October in Mississippi.
Regier was at 3-over 213 after the first three rounds at Lake Caroline Golf Club in Madison. He faded in the final round by shooting an 80, leaving him 13 over, well off the pace of 3 under needed to advance to the second stage.
Golf Digest has released its latest rankings of the best courses in the United States and in each state.
East Aurora’s Crag Burn is the highest-rated course in Western New York, showing up at No. 25 in the state rankings. No. 1 on the list is Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, followed by Winged Foot in Mamaroneck. Oak Hill’s East Course, host of this year’s PGA Championship, is ranked fifth, while the West Course is ranked 19th.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. An example of the arbitrary nature of golf course rankings: Golf Digest has the Kaluhyat course at the Turning Stone Resort listed at No. 71 on the best public courses in the United States. It’s a wonderful course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. But on the New York State listing, Turning Stone’s Atunyote course is No. 21, ahead of Kaluhyat (No. 29).
Looking for an underdog to back in this week’s Masters? Start with Nathan Smith. The 34-year-old Mid-Amateur from Pittsburgh will be making his fourth appearance in the Masters, thanks to his fourth career victory last season in the USGA Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship, the first player to ever do that.
Smith, who has played in the Porter Cup nine times, made his first Masters appearance came in 2004, when he played the first two rounds with Arnold Palmer, who was making his 50th and final Masters appearance. Smith needed a par on his final hole in the second round to make the cut, but made double bogey.
Jerry Coleman, PGA teaching professional at Brierwood Country Club, was awarded the 2012 Teacher of the Year Award by the PGA of Western New York section.
News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan contributed to this report.