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A challenging Niagara Falls Country Club awaits a field full of the country’s top senior amateur golfers this week for the Senior Porter Cup.

“It’ll play a little tougher because the rough is a little thicker just based on the nature of the summer we’ve had,” said tournament director Fred Silver. “Normally we have those dry days in August, and the rough gets a little thin. But we haven’t had those. It’s been raining about every third day, so it’s perfect for growing grass.”

A projected field of 96 senior (ages 55-64) and super senior (ages 65 and up) scratch golfers will tee it up in the 54-hole event that starts today at Niagara Falls Country Club.

The field contains 12 of the top 100 players in the most recent Golfweek senior amateur rankings, including four of the top 10 in No. 5 Paul Schlachter of Pittsburgh, No. 7 John Armstrong of Frostburg, Md., No. 8 Cyrus Whitney of Oro Valley, Ariz., and No. 9 Peter Van Ingen of New York City.

Whitney is the defending champion. He cruised to a seven-stroke victory last year with a total of 3-over 213. Silver said this year’s winner will do well to match that number – especially if the wind kicks up. The par-70 course will play about 6,500 yards. The United States Golf Association sets up the U.S. Senior Amateur at a similar length.

“I set the course up so that even par is a good score,” Silver said. “I set it up challenging – not necessarily difficult – but challenging. These guys don’t shoot 64 like the kids do. … It’s a much tougher golf course for the seniors, and that’s the way they like it. They know if they come here and play well they can win – they don’t have to shoot 10 under par.”

Silver said players from about 25 states will participate in this year’s tournament.

“They’re from all over the place,” he said. “I get a really good base of players, because these guys love it here. They love to play competitive golf, and this is one of the stronger fields they play in. They also love to play the Porter Cup course, and it’s ‘Chamber of Commerce’ weather this time of year, so it’s just perfect.”

The tournament serves as a major for the Golfweek rankings, another reason it annually draws well. This is the seventh year that the tournament has stood on its own, separate from the regular Porter Cup held annually in late July. The field is expected to be down slightly from last year’s 117 entrants.

“I don’t know what happened last year, but I got more responses quicker than I have in any of the seven years we’ve had a full-field tournament,” Silver said. “I don’t know why that happened – but you can’t very well invite someone and then say, ‘sorry, we don’t have room.’ So we expanded the field a little bit beyond what I wanted, but this year at 96 is just ideal.”

Aside from those in the top 10 in the senior rankings, players like Tom Hyland (No. 30) of Las Vegas and Steve Hudson (No. 32) from Birmingham, Ala., were also tabbed by Silver as contenders.

Eleven of the country’s top 50 super seniors are also in the field. That list will not include Silver, the Lewiston resident who is No. 8 in the Golfweek rankings and a 29-time club champion at Niagara Falls Country Club. He’s taking a break from competitive golf to tend to some family medical issues, although he is still serving as tournament director.

Defending super senior champion Ted Smith returns this week, ranked No. 1. Three players who were part of a five-way tie for second in 2013 – No. 7 Walt Martin, No. 14 John Blank and Tom McLean – are also back.

Chip shots

• In sticking with the Porter Cup theme, the dates for the 57th Porter Cup tournament have been set, July 29-Aug. 1, 2015.

• In its September issue, Golf magazine ranked the “Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play” and at the same time released its biennial list of the “Best Courses Near You.” Seneca Hickory Stick in Lewiston came in at No. 12 on that list in New York.

A panel made up of PGA section directors, regional golf association directors and golf writers voted from a list of more than 400 daily-fee, resort and semi-private courses. Members of the public who had played more than 20 courses on the list were also eligible to vote. Both lists can be viewed at the website, golf.com.

• Buffalo-based OnCore Golf, the manufacturer of the world’s only USGA-approved hollow metal core golf ball, recently hired Joseph White as its president and chief operating officer.

White has more than 30 years of experience in the golf industry, and is past president of the Gary Player Group.

“OnCore is one of the most monumental innovations in the golf industry that I have seen in my career,” White said. “I’m intrigued by their innovative approach and am looking forward to working with OnCore to build a highly successful business focused on this next big innovation in golf.”

• This is the final golf column of the 2014 season. The News will continue to provide coverage of local golf news. Information can be emailed to the address below.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com