2002: ‘Smarter’ Nash notches Porter Cup
For Simon Nash, the magical journey continues.
Nash, an Australian, was a sophomore last season at the University of Minnesota, where during the spring the school announced it was dropping the men’s golf program because of budget cuts. The program was given a reprieve, and Nash and his teammates began their Cinderella story.
The Gophers, with Nash playing a lead role, won the Big Ten Conference Championship and then captured the NCAA Championship.
The fairy tale adventure continued for Nash at Niagara Falls Country Club.
With a final-round, 3-under-par 67, Nash captured the prestigious Porter Cup amateur title July 27 with a 7-under 273.
“Winning the NCAA this year was as special as it gets, especially because of what had happened,” Nash said. “But there it was a team thing, and we all were together.
“But this is really special for me. I’ve never played in a field this strong in an amateur tournament. To win is just overwhelming. You can’t compare the two (NCAA team and Porter Cup individual), but I guarantee you this one is something I’ll remember all my life.”
Nash’s 7-under total gave him a one-stroke victory over Matthew Rosenfeld of Plano, Texas, and Lee Williamson of Crawfordsville, Ind.
Williamson, a first-team All-American for Purdue last season, three-putted No. 17 for bogey to drop to 6 under. Rosenfeld, 7 under through 17 holes, missed a 2-foot par putt and made bogey at 18.
Bill Haas, a junior at Wake Forest and a leader by one going into the final round after his course- and tournament-record tying 8-under 62 Friday, struggled with a 74 and tied for seventh at 4-under 276. Nash finished runner-up to Haas at last week’s Players Amateur in Bluffton, S.C.
In the senior division, John Esterbrook of Sandy, Utah, sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to defeat Rick LaRose, the men’s golf coach at Arizona, and claim the title. Esterbrook closed with a 1-under 69 and LaRose with 71 for 6-over 286 totals. Bill Ploeger of Columbus, Ga., who bogeyed the final hole, was third at 287, followed by Alan Foster of Manlius, N.Y., whose closing 67 was the best round of the tournament’s senior division, at 288.
Nash becomes the fourth foreign-born Porter Cup champion, joining Japan’s Ryuji Imada (1996) and Canada’s Danny Mijovic (1984) and Gary Cowan (1969).
“Last year when I played here, I did terrible because I think I tried to overpower the course,” said Nash. “This year, I played a lot smarter, and I think that was the big difference.”
Nash started the final round 4 under and four strokes behind Haas. He was joined by Minnesota teammates Justin Smith (tied for fourth) and Wilhelm Schauman (tie for seventh) in the top 10.
“I would never have thought 7 under would be good enough to win at the start of the day,” Nash said. “I was thinking it would take 10 under, so I felt I would have to really shoot low.”
Haas eliminated himself with a 5-over 40 on the front nine. Meanwhile, Rosenfeld, the 2000 U.S. Junior champion, birdied Nos. 3 and 7 to put him 8 under and atop the leaderboard.
Nash began his charge at the par-5 11th. Standing 4 under, he hooked a 7-iron shot from the rough around a tree to 16 feet and sank the eagle putt. He followed with birdies at No. 12 and No. 14 to move into a tie for the lead.
Still, no one took charge.
Schauman birdied 13 to get to 7 under, but bogeyed 17 and four-putted 18 for double bogey. Adam Groom, who tied for fourth, got to 7 under through 12, but bogeyed 14 and 15.
Williamson, runner-up at the U.S. Amateur Public Links July 20, birdied No. 12 to get to 7 under, but he, ran out of birdies coming in.
“Another almost for me,” Williamson said. “But I played well this week, and it just wasn’t to be. I put myself in contention to win, and that’s what you want to do. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”
Rosenfeld held his own after getting to 8 under with a string of pars. But he three-putted the par-3 16th for bogey and did the same at 18.
“It’s very, very disappointing,” said Rosenfeld. “But I’m going to have to put it behind me and move on to the next tournament. Hopefully, this will be a learning experience for me. But right now I’m just disappointed.”