NOT even a teenage prodigy who eclipsed a record set by Tiger Woods has been able to halt a charge by Garrick Porteous at becoming the first North East golfer this century to win The Amateur Championship.
A Great Britain & Ireland international from the Bamburgh Castle club, Porteous beat American Jim Liu at the 19th in the semi-finals at Royal Cinque Ports in Kent yesterday.
Three years ago, at the age of 14, Liu became the youngest winner of the US Junior Open, overtaking Woods, who was 15 when he won the same tournament.
Liu has not torn up too many trees since and it was Porteous (pictured above), a 23-year-old with vast experience, who moved into today’s 36-hole final against Toni Hakula, a Finn playing out of the University of Texas.
The pride of Northumberland is hoping to follow Graeme Storm, who took The Amateur Championship trophy back to Hartlepool in 1999.
The morning victory in the quarter-finals brought Porteous a bigger scalp in Southampton’s Neil Raymond, a friend and occasional foursomes partner.
Raymond captured the Brabazon Trophy – the English Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship – in 2011 and 2012 and won the recent St Andrews Links Trophy.
An eagle at five and birdies at six and eight enabled Porteous to settle into the driving seat after a slow start.
Raymond started the tournament 27th in the world amateur rankings, 12 places above Porteous. Liu was 93rd.
Against Liu in the afternoon, when the wind got up, Porteous was a hole behind at the turn and although he had taken the lead by the 15th tee, he started 18 one down again. Porteous was over 80 yards longer with his drive on the hole and Liu began a two-hole meltdown with a poor second shot out of the rough. At the first hole of sudden death, it was Porteous who kept his composure even though he found a ditch, with both men wayward off the tee.
After taking a drop Porteous pitched to seven feet from 30 yards and sunk the putt. Liu capitulated with three putts.
“I have never heard of the guy I am playing in the final, let alone played against him,” said Porteous. “But he is obviously doing very well. I need to do more of the same I have been doing. You need to be strategic on this course to get the right angle into the pins and on top of your short game with the undulating greens.”
Herculean efforts from Porteous this season are hopefully already enough for him to have secured a place in the GB&I team to play America in September’s Walker Cup match on Long Island, where Liu lives.
Porteous has captured his first major amateur strokeplay title in finishing four shots clear of the field in the Scottish Amateur and was runner-up in the Welsh Open.
The former King Edwards Morpeth pupil is a member of the Northumberland club.
Porteous won’t be competing on Monday when the Park host Regional Qualifying for The Open Championship for the first time. He’s exempt until Local Final Qualifying on July 2.
SEE tomorrow’s Sunday Sun for a report on the Garrick Porteous final and a preview of Open qualifying at the Park.