LEWISTON — It’s a dead heat between Texas and California at this year’s Porter Cup.
Both universities have five players in the field at Niagara Falls Country Club.
“There hasn’t been any real trash-talking. We’re in different conferences, so we don’t see each other that much,” said Cal junior Brandon Hagy. “I wouldn’t say there is really a rivalry, but obviously there’s a lot of respect between the two teams.”
In the final rankings of the Golf Coaches Association of America, Cal finished first and Texas was third, although neither program captured the NCAA Division I national championship that went to Alabama.
“I don’t think there is any doubt Cal, Alabama and Texas are going to be the top three teams again next year,” Hagy said. “It’s made for a fun summer leading up to it.”
It’s also comforting for the players in the field to see familiar faces.
“It helps keep you loose,” Hagy said. “It almost has the feel of a college tournament.”
Hagy, a senior, shot a 1-under 69 Friday in the third round. He’s at even par 210 for the tournament, in a tie for 23rd place. Max Homa, who finished his collegiate career in the spring as the NCAA individual champion, is the lowest Golden Bear in the field, in a tie for ninth place at 4-under after a round of 1-under 69 Friday. Cal sophomore Shotaro Ben is tied for 19th at 1-under 209 after shooting a round of 3-under 67 Friday, while the other two Cal players are sophomore James Yoon (tied for 46th at 5-over) and senior Michael Weaver (6-over, tied for 50th).
The low Longhorn through three rounds is 18-year-old redshirt freshman Beau Hossler, who’s tied for fifth place at 6-under 204.
“All the guys on our team really feed off of each other. I couldn’t be happier with the group of guys we have at school,” he said. “I’m really proud of the people that they are and the golf games that they’ve created. We definitely compete against each other in practices as well as tournaments.”
Hossler and incoming 18-year-old freshman Gavin Hall are part of a strong recruiting class for the Longhorns.
“It’s good having those guys around, for sure,” said Texas junior Kramer Hickok. “Definitely from a team-bonding standpoint. I don’t know them too well and it’s good for us to spend some time together, for them to feel what it’s like to play in a tournament like this. It’s good for all of us.”
Hall and Hickock will play together today in the final round, as they are part of a tie for seventh place at 5-under.
The other Longhorns in the field are senior Toni Hakula, who’s tied for 16th at 2-under, and spring graduate Julio Vegas, who is 8-over for the tournament (tied for 59th).
“We’ll be either just as good or even a little better than last year, and I know Cal will be the same,” Hickok said. “It will be extremely competitive toward the top.”
It’s a homecoming not for 19-year-old competitor Hagen Barmasse of Houston, Texas, but rather his caddie and father, Scott.
A native of Wilson, Scott Barmasse and his wife, Sheryl (who’s from Youngstown), moved to Houston 20 years ago.
“That’s how I knew about the Porter Cup and how great it was,” said Hagen Barmassse, who earned a spot through last month’s qualifying tournament. “It’s amazing just to see everybody that my dad grew up with. It’s a world-class experience to come here with all this great competition.”
The Barmasses still have several family members in the area, so it’s been quite a homecoming trip for Scott.
“My mom still lives in Wilson. My brother’s in Lockport and my in-laws are in Youngstown,” he said. “When Hagen started to play golf and really getting pretty good, we said, ‘we’ve got to get you in the Porter Cup.’ It’s awesome for them to get a chance to see him play.”
Hagen Barmasse is a sophomore at Rogers State University, a Division II school in Oklahoma.
Matt NeSmith, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of South Carolina, posted a 63 as part of a morning group that tied for the best round of the day.
An honorable mention All-American as a freshman with the Gamecocks, NeSmith moved from a tie for 66th to a tie for 29th, at 1-over 211 for the tournament.
“It was kind of my day,” said NeSmith, who tied for 37th last year in his first Porter Cup. “I don’t know if I was expecting it, but I knew I could do it.”
NeSmith opened with birdies on the first two holes. Most surprising about his round is that he managed to go bogey free and shoot 7-under without making a single birdie on any of the three par-5 holes. He saved par three times on the front nine from 10-plus feet.
NeSmith closed his round by chipping in for birdie on the par-3 18th.
“I hit a chip that came out way too quick, he said after just missing his career round by one stroke. “It smacked the pin dead center and was in. That summed up by day.”