Amateur Championship winner Garrick Porteous praised by David Curry

David Curry was the last player from Northumberland before Garrick Porteous to win The Amateur Championship

Garrick Porteous
Garrick Porteous

The last player from Northumberland before Garrick Porteous to win The Amateur Championship was a cheerful sort of cove, David Curry, who admits he took his eye off the ball at times when it came to trying to make it as a pro.

Curry celebrates his 50th birthday next week and has seen some twists and turns in a colourful life since bringing the title back from Lytham to Prudhoe 27 years ago.

It is now the lucky members of Blyth who have one of golf’s great characters as their teaching professional and clubhouse steward, serving up golf tips with their bacon butties.

Porteous and Curry have their names alongside players such as Bobby Jones junior, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia on the trophy.

“Tell Garrick congratulations,” said Curry. “It’s opened a lot of doors for him and I hope he makes the most of his opportunities.”

The members of the Northumberland club, the Park, will testify that Porteous, who is likely to turn professional after next year’s US Open, is making Curry’s hope a reality.

When he is not at a tournament, and he’s cried off from the Brabazon this week because understandably he feels drained by the mental and physical efforts involved in winning the Amateur, he can be found putting in the hard yards on their practice ground.

That’s between five and seven hours a day, having started each morning with a 90-minute gym session.

A player who before this season had acquired the reputation of a nearly man following years of top-five places has stopped that sort of talk dead in its tracks.

Winner of the Amateur and the Scottish Open and runner-up in the Welsh Open, he is now “the terminator”, the player who closes out, the man the amateur game fears – now that he has altered his focus.

The transformation began with the England Squad Lead Coach, Graham Wallker, becoming the personal coach to Porteous when the player began his build-up to the 2013 season in early December.

Two months earlier, Porteous was 92nd in the world amateur golf rankings. When the latest places were released yesterday he was 14th, a jump of 25 following his Amateur triumph.

Porteous said: “In December, Graham and me made a conscious decision to devise practice sessions in which I hardly ever bother at all with my driving.

“There are tournament days when the long game is there and days when it isn’t, that is always going to be work in progress and it is not where tournaments are won or lost.

“I concentrate almost entirely on putting, chipping and distance control. I’ll set up cones to mark out distances between 10 yards and 150 yards.

“I keep mixing up the intervals in terms of distance, randomly, which is how it comes when you are playing a tournament.”

The 23-year-old studio art major from the University of Tennessee is 6ft 1in, a little over 13st, and his idea of what constitutes a sporting problem was shaped by being raked across the chest by an opponent’s studs in the days when he was a schoolboy No 8 playing county standard rugby union.

When he was a 17-year-old golfer he had to drop out of the England team which won the Boys Home Internationals with scarlet fever and a year later, just before he started at Tennessee, he suffered “the worst burst appendix” his doctor had ever seen.

The nearest thing to a health problem Porteous encountered in the final of the Amateur was in his reasoning behind asking his 54-year-old father John, who teaches sport management at the University of Northumbria, to caddy for him, after an interval of “possibly a year or just over.”

John is a three handicap golfer and has been a member of Bamburgh Castle, the club his son represents in tournaments, since he was 10.

There was humour in the contrasting reasons they gave for their reunion on the course, having inevitably suffered the odd minor family tiff in the past.

“Garrick felt he needed somebody he knew for the final”, said John. “Somebody close who understood his game and who could say the right thing at the right time.”

“Dunno about that”, said Garrick with a smile. “I had been doing my own caddying all through the earlier rounds and I was tired. I just wanted somebody to take over the bag!”

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