In its sixth year as a full-field event, the Senior Porter Cup continues to be a big draw among the nation’s best senior amateur golfers.
In fact, this year it’s the biggest yet.
A projected field of 118 senior (ages 55-64) and super senior (ages 65 and up) scratch golfers will tee it up in the 54-hole event, starting today at Niagara Falls Country Club.
“It’s by far the strongest field we’ve ever had,” said Tournament Director Fred Silver.
Three of the top five players in the Golfweek Senior Amateur rankings are in the field, including the No. 1 player in the country in Bill Zylstra of Plymouth, Mich. He’s joined by No. 3 Paul Schlachter of Bridgeville, Pa.. and Ron Carter of Monticello, Ind., who is ranked No. 5. Carter is a two-time Senior Porter Cup champion, in 2010-11.
Also in the field is the defending champion, Mac McGee of Midland, Texas, and last year’s runner-up Larry Cooper of Toronto. He’s coming off a sixth-place finish in the recent Canadian Men’s Senior Championship.
“Everybody knows about the Porter Cup. They know about the golf course and how good it is,” Silver said, in explaining how the field has continually gotten deeper and stronger year to year. “Probably about a third of the field played here in the Porter Cup when they were in college, so they love to come back.”
The fact that Niagara Falls is not an overly long course also makes it a favorite of senior players. There are nine returning champions playing this week in the senior or super senior division. Word of mouth among the playing field helps, as do the weather conditions in Western New York in early September.
“Frankly, it’s perfect,” Silver said. “It’s a great place to come. We have 50 players that brought their wives. That’s unheard of at any other senior tournament I play in. They all like to go to Niagara Falls. They all like to come to the area. So I think the location, the strength of the field, all that helps. It’s a combination of all that, but there’s nothing like the Porter Cup name.”
The Senior Porter Cup is also one of the top-ranked national tournaments, which also helps to strengthen the field.
Other contenders in the senior division include Rick LaRose of Tucson, Ariz., the 1998 champion, as well as Bill Pelham of Houston.
Pelham, who played in the regular Porter Cup, recently regained his amateur status. There are nine Western New York players in the field. including Dr. Jim Smith of Orchard Park — the 2004 champion — and East Amherst’s Mike McNulty, who finished fourth last year.
The Super Senior division is packed with eight of the top 10 super seniors in the country, led by No. 1 Ted Smith of Wilkinson, Ind.
Silver, the Lewiston resident, will also defend his super senior title. Skip Snow of Dayton, Ohio — the 2011 winner — and Gary Shimmin of Okatie, S.C., — the 2010 winner — are also in the field.
Players will go off today and Thursday between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The final round Friday will feature a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m.