2001: Cassini’s comeback takes toughened-up Porter Cup
The course setup at the Porter Cup was not its hospitable self this year, confounding players with 5-inch rough and tough scoring conditions that kept all but two of the field’s top amateurs from finishing under par.
But the tougher Niagara Falls Country Club proved to be a good tune-up for Nick Cassini, a recent University of Georgia graduate who was a late selection to the U.S. Walker Cup team. Cassini showed he was worthy of the choice to play in the biennial match when he came from behind to win the 43rd annual Porter Cup, shooting a final-round 65 on the par-70 tester.
Cassini, 22, started the final round July 28 at even-par 210, two shots behind Matt McQuillan and Brent Wanner. He got off to a strong start, making birdies on Nos. 5 and 6 to move to 2 under, a mark that held up through the turn.
“I tried to give myself some chances,” said Cassini, ranked No. 3 in the Golfweek/Titleist Amateur Rankings.
While Cassini was following his game plan, Sean Knapp, playing three groups in front of him, was on pace to go real low, like golf’s magical number low.
Knapp, who started the day four shots off the lead, made an early move with birdies at Nos. 1 and 2 and an eagle at the third hole. He then birdied No. 4 to move to 5 under for the round and 3 under for the tournament.
“We started out birdie,” Knapp said, “and I said (to my caddie): ‘Lets just keep this going,’ and we made another birdie. And all of a sudden when I roll in the eagle putt, I said: ‘We got something going here.’ ’’
Knapp, 39, a vice president at a financial services firm in Pittsburgh, went on to make five straight pars, then added birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. He bogeyed No. 12, parred the next four holes, and then bogeyed in for a 4-under 66.
“I certainly felt like two pars on 17 and 18 would have been a good deal,” Knapp said. “Unfortunately that is golf.”
Meanwhile, Cassini kept on hitting good ones, adding birdies at Nos. 10 and 13.
But when he ran into trouble, the experience of being a first-team All-American and SEC Player of the Year helped. On the 440-yard 17th, Cassini decided to pitch out of the rough and take his chances with his third shot to the green. From the middle of the fairway he put his ball 25 feet from the hole, which he reached dead center with his first putt to save par and preserve his two-stroke lead.
On the final hole, a 189-yard par 3 that was aced by Northwestern University sophomore Tom Johnson in the third round, Cassini sank another 25-footer, this time for birdie.
“It’s wonderful to win such a big event. I’ve always wanted to win one of these. . . . You know, it’s just great to add my name to the trophy,” said Cassini, whose name will be inserted nine years after David Duval’s.
Michael Beard (66) finished tied for third with D.J. Trahan (67), who will join Cassini at the Walker Cup in Sea Island, Ga., Aug. 11-12.
Bill Ploeger won the seniors division by two shots over Jerry Greenbaum (69) after carding a final-round 70 for a 10-over-par total.