Toni Hakula from Finland will face England’s Garrick Porteous in tomorrow’s Final of the 118th Amateur Championship at Royal Cinque Ports.
The unheralded Finn dispatched local favourite Max Orrin by 4&2 while America’s Jim Liu lost out to Porteous at the 19th hole after a dramatic finish in this afternoon’s other Semi-Final.
The 21-year-old University of Texas student was never behind in the match and after a steady start he stepped up a gear at the turn with three birdies from the 9th hole. Orrin, who is bidding for a place in the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team to face the USA in Southampton, New York in September, fought hard to get back into the match but failed to eat into Hakula’s lead. On the 16th, the Finn found rough on the left but played a brilliant 3 iron from 216 yards in to 5ft and holed the putt to close the door on his opponent.
Hakula, who hails from Espoo, near Helsinki, relished the experience of playing in front of a large gallery on his fourth appearance in The Amateur Championship. “I felt good out there today, I wasn’t nervous and I hope it stays that way tomorrow,” he said. “My putting this morning was excellent. I just avoided making mistakes and kept holing the putts I needed to make. I just hit the fairways and greens and usually par wins the hole.”
A see-saw encounter in the other Semi-Final saw Liu, who will attend Stanford University in September, hold a slender one-hole lead for most of the match until a bogey at the 13th let the University of Tennessee student draw level. Porteous moved ahead for the first time with a birdie at the par three 14th but Liu clawed it back at the next, getting up and down from right of the green as Porteous three-putted.
Liu regained the lead on the 17th, holing a snaking downhill putt from 12ft for birdie, but the real drama started on the 18th when the former US Junior Open Champion’s badly mishit his second shot nearly hitting his opponent on the way to finding the thick rough beside the burn that crosses the fairway. The 17-year-old from Long Island could only hack out of the rough and was forced to concede the hole when Porteous left himself a tap-in for a bogey five.
On the 19th, both players found the rough from the tee. Porteous left his approach short and found the burn in front of the green while Liu could only hack out of the rough and reach the green in three. The 23-year-old Bamburgh Castle player chipped to 5ft and holed the putt. Liu’s first putt was a little short and he missed from 3ft to lose the match.
Porteous, who studies Studio Art, said he was relieved to win after finding the water in the play-off. “I knew I had a chance on the 19th at least if I got up and down. It was sitting not too badly but I just didn’t have enough club to be honest. I used a 54 degree wedge when maybe I should have used a little Pitching Wedge. When I hit it in the water I thought it was a done deal but when he hacked it out I thought well, if I get at least up and down, I have got a chance.”
In the Quarter Finals earlier in the day, Porteous brought Neil Raymond’s run to an end with a 2&1 victory while Liu defeated the 16-year-old Italian Renato Paratore 3&2. Hakula enjoyed a 4&3 triumph over Frenchman Paul Barjon and Orrin won by the same margin against Huddersfield’s Nick Marsh.