David Gies II (Photo submitted)
By Rick Woelfel
David Gies II has spent a lot of time on the golf course over the last year, just not necessarily as a competitor. But the 30-year old Charlotte, N.C., resident will be on hand this week at Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, N.Y., near the Canadian border, for the 61st playing of the Porter Cup, which kicks off on Wednesday.
Gies has spent a lot of time in recent months caddying for Kevin O’ Connell, first during Connell’s winning effort at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Charlotte Country Club, then, at the Masters this past April and finally at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June.
If the reader believes that caddying is less stressful than actually competing, think again.
“As a player, you have a lot more control,” Gies said, “you're making the decisions, you’re hitting the shots. On the bag, you don’t want to say the wrong thing …. I think being a caddy is a little more nerve-wracking.”
Gies has known success as a competitor himself; he was a quarterfinalist at the Mid-Am in 2015. But he hasn’t played much competitive golf of late. He placed ninth over 54 holes at the Birmingham National Invitational in June. He also missed the cut at the South Carolina Open.
“I don’t know if I’ve played a four-round event this year,” he said.”
Gies grew up around golf. His father, also named David, is a golf professional and Gies himself oversees the caddie program at the Quail Hollow Club, an arrangement that affords him time to work on his own game.
“Fortunately for me, I’m at a place where my boss firmly encourages working on your game and getting better,” he said, “playing golf, and playing tournaments.
“For me, it’s pretty simple. Usually every day I work at 11 so I go in to work about eight, practice for a couple hours, and go to work.”
Gies is able to adjust his work schedule to play in tournaments. “It’s pretty easy to ask (for time off) to play,” he said.
“Obviously, financially, you can’t ask off every week, but I’ve got the best boss in the world, as far as encouraging me to play and practice.”
Gies will be making his third appearance in the Porter Cup. A self-described “architecture nut,” his summer tournament schedule is determined by deciding what courses he’d like to play.
“Since I finished college (North Alabama) I pick my entire schedule based on the golf course,” he said. “I love old-style golf courses. Whenever I go to a (U.S. Mid-Am or U.S. Amateur) qualifier, I always pick somewhere where I think the golf course would be fun to play.”
A fan of Golden Age architect Seth Raynor, Gies recently played the Camargo Club in Cincinnati, which was one of the courses used last week for a U.S. Amateur qualifier.
“It just makes it more enjoyable to travel when you get to play a high-quality course that’s got some history,” he said.
The layout at Niagara Falls Country Club dates back to 1919. It was designed by A.W. Tillinghast with subsequent revisions by Robert Trent Jones Sr., Geoffrey Cornish, and Brian Silva. It will play to 6,871 yards for the Porter Cup with a par of 70.
The Porter Cup got its start in 1959. It was originally called the International Invitation at Niagara Falls Country Club and the field that first year consisted primarily of college players and businessmen from Western New York and Southern Ontario.
The following year the tournament was named for Alex Porter, a local businessman who donated the championship trophy. That same year the event expanded from 54 to 72 holes.
As time passed, the tournament began attracting an increasing number of elite players. Some went on to find success on the PGA Tour while some maintained their amateur standing. The list of winners includes Dean Beaman (1964), Howard Twitty (1970), Ben Crenshaw (1971), Vinny Giles (1973), George Burns (1974), Jay Sigel (1975, ’81, ‘87), John Cook (1979), Nathaniel Crosby (1982), Phil Mickelson (1990), David Duval (1992), and Allen Doyle (1994).
The list of players who competed in the Porter Cup but did not win it includes Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard, and Hal Sutton among others.