by Ron Balicki
LEWISTON, N.Y. – David Chung felt good about his game and even better about returning to Niagara Falls Country Club for the 52nd Porter Cup. He liked the par-70, 6,871-yard course and felt quite comfortable with what it had to offer.
And, after finishing 11th in his first Porter Cup start two years ago and fourth last year, he also had the confidence that he could play well again.
He was right.
With birdies on the final two holes to cap off a 5-under-par 30 on the back nine Saturday, Chung broke free from a tight pack of contenders to capture the title.
Chung, a junior at Stanford, closed with a 5-under 65 – matching his first and third round efforts – to finish at 13-under 267.
That gave the 20-year-old a three-shot victory over Oklahoma State junior and first team All-American Peter Uihlein and 15-year-old local area favorite Gavin Hall.
Russell Henley, who led or shared the lead after the second and third rounds, finished at 9-under 271. The Georgia senior and first-team All-American led throughout the final round until four-putting and making double bogey at the par-3 16th hole and closing with a 69.
Nate McCoy, a junior at Iowa State, had his best finish in a major amateur tournament, placing fifth at 7-under 273, one stroke better than 40-year-old Harry Rudolph of California and 17-year-old Tomas Cocha of Argentina.
Tied for the lead at 8-under going into the final round with Henley and Jake Katz, a senior at SUNY Binghampton, Chung got off to a rocky start with bogeys on the first two holes.
“Even with those two bogeys, I wasn’t too concerned,” Chung said. “I’d been playing well all week and still felt good about my game. I knew I could bring it back.”
He made two birdies coming in on the front to turn in even par 35 and then kicked things in gear on the back. He birdied No. 10 from eight feet and 11 from 15 feet. His four-footer found the hole on the par-3 13th and then he finished it off by sinking an eight footer on 17 and two footer at 18.
“Right now it feels pretty awesome,” Chung said. “To win against these great players is special. I think the key was my putting all week. I just had a lot of confidence over the ball.
“Also, I stayed patient and kept everything under control,” he said. “The biggest thing was playing mistake free golf coming down the stretch today. I was under pressure and feel I handled it well.”
Uihlein started the day two strokes off the lead but quickly moved up with two early birdies and a front-nine 3-under 32. A birdie at No. 12 got him to 10 under and only one shot behind Henley. He bogeyed 14 but came back with a birdie at 16 before making par on the final two holes.
“Overall, I played solid today,” said Uihlein, who won this summer at the Sahalee Players Championship. “I got a little sloppy in the middle of the round, but made some good putts and good up and downs. I just needed a few more birdies.”
Hall’s performance on the big stage of amateur golf made his stock as a future college recruit climb through the roof. It already was soaring after he shot a record 62 in the stroke play portion of this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur and then won his second straight Rochester (N.Y.) District Golf Association Championship, which he won earlier this month by 18 strokes.
His T-2 finish and closing 65 at Porter Cup, though, was especially gratifying for the high school sophomore.
“It was a fun day today, especially with the big crowds and all those people cheering me on,” Hall said. “I’m proud of the way I played and handled myself. I held my ground and held my composure against some of the great amateur players in the world. I’m going to take a lot out of this week.”
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- Local player Jake Katz of Williamsville, New York, who was hoping to become the first local player to win the Porter Cup since 1965 was tied for the lead after three rounds but posted 74 on Saturday to finish T10th. Katz, who had to local qualify just to make the field, definitely exceeded his original goal upon qualifying - a top 25 finish and invite back for next year's event. No question about it, Katz will be playing the Porter Cup in 2011.
- Harry Rudolph III of La Jolla, Calif. posted a solid T6 finish. Rudolph, a reinstated amateur and former NCAA All American at Arizona State, was tied for the lead after 36 holes. After a 10 year break from the game, Rudolph's resurgence as an amateur continues. He was recently runner-up in the California State Amateur and earlier in the year won the Kelly Cup in California at Lakeside Golf Club. He could have been in San Diego defending his 2009 San Diego City title at Torrey Pines, but the trip to the Porter Cup and the chance to mix it up with the country's best amateurs was obviously worth it.