THERE were only two years in age between the players contesting the 36-hole final of The Amateur Championship, but in vile conditions it was man against boy and Northumberland’s Garrick Porteous was the man.
With the wind getting up to 40mph at times over the seaside links of Royal Cinque Ports in Deal on Saturday, the hapless Finn Toni Hakula, a former ice hockey player, was blown off the course in every sense – losing 6&5.
The 21-year-old, a plus three handicapper, stepped up to the plate placed 209th in the world amateur rankings.
Porteous, 23, plays off plus five and was 39th going into the tournament, although he could be as high as the top 15 when the latest rankings are announced later this week.
Representing the Bamburgh Castle club, Porteous became the first English winner of the title since Gary Wolstenholme ten years ago, displaying as many of his strengths as the wind and driving rain would allow. Hakula’s game was more prone to error.
Porteous, who lives in the Lancaster Park area of Morpeth and went to King Edward VI School, grew up playing bonny Bamburgh – so he is no stranger to links golf at its most demanding.
He said: “It’s second nature to me. I know how to hit it low, hit it high and how to chip and run.
“I knew it was going to be a grind and I wasn’t intimidated.”
His fierce competitive instincts have been honed to US college circuit level in Tennesee and to international squad standard with the generous help of England Golf’s support programme for their elite squad. Hakula won the first hole and it was all square after three with Porteous taking a while to settle.
When he did, he won four holes on the bounce from the sixth, all with pars.
After that, Porteous was never less than two up apart from Hakula briefly reducing the gap to one, at 16, where he rolled in a 20ft putt. However, it was Porteous two up again after 17.
Having led by three after 18 holes, the more composed Porteous turned the screw during the afternoon with stunning long putts from 15 feet at the 23rd and 40 feet at the 27th.
By the time the Finn was put out of his misery on the 31st, he was unraveling and looking as if another five holes might have sent him off in search of a psychiatrist.
Porteous now has a fixture list which will be the envy of most of the world’s professionals, never mind amateurs:
The Open Championship at Muirfield next month. The US Amateur in August. The Walker Cup on Long Island in September. Next year’s Masters and US Open. He added: “It’s quite a surreal feeling . . . awesome, amazing.
“Muirfield is close to the North East so there will be a lot of golfers from my region there.
“It is just over an hour from my home in Morpeth.
“I played Muirfield four years ago in The Amateur and it will feel pretty special to tee it up there in the Open.”
Porteous is the first North East winner of the biggest amateur title in British golf since Graeme Storm took the trophy back to Hartlepool in 1999.