LEWISTON, N.Y. – Introductions will certainly be needed on the first tee Friday for the final threesome in the third round of the 52nd Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club.
Russell Henley and Nate McCoy, meet Harry Rudolph. Let’s see, the last time Rudolph competed in the Porter Cup was 1991, in between his junior and senior seasons at the University of Arizona. Oh yes, that year Henley was turning 2 years old and McCoy was being born.
But this is golf, where so often the ages come together. That will be the case as Rudolph, 40, who regained his amateur status in April 2009, Henley, 21, and a senior at Georgia, and McCoy, 19, and a junior at Iowa State, tee off as the front-runners in this elite amateur tournament.
Henley and Rudolph go in as the co-leaders at 8-under 132; Henley shot 65-67 and Rudolph 67-65 on the 6,871-yard, par-70 Porter Cup home course. McCoy, whose father, Mike, has long been one of the nation’s top amateur players, stands at 5-under 135 after rounds of 69-66.
Another shot back at 136 are Wesley Bryan and Garrett Rank, whose 6-under 64s matched the best round of the day. Also with 64s were Harris English and Jake Katz, who stand at 137, along with David Chung, Sebastian Maclean and Donald Constable.
Earlier this summer, Rudolph, who is part owner and helps run Harry’s Coffee Shop in his hometown of La Jolla, Calif., with his brother and sister, was runner-up at the California State Amateur. This, however, is his best showing in a national amateur tournament in almost 20 years for the former AJGA and NCAA first-team All-America.
“I’ve just been playing solid all around,” said Rudolph, who had not played competitively for almost 10 years after doing stints on the Asian, Canadian and Nike (now Nationwide) tours. “I’ve really had good pace on my putts the last two days.
“Right now I’m managing my game well and giving myself plenty of opportunities for birdie,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in this position on this type of national stage, so it will be interesting to see how I handle it over the next two days.”
Rudolph was one of 24 players who had to finish their opening round Thursday morning after severe weather postponed play the previous day. He played his final five holes in even par, and after a half hour break started his second round.
He got things going when he sank a 20-footer for birdie at No. 4, and at No. 8 hit a 6-iron from 190 yards to 10 feet and made the putt.
He birdied the 10th with a 5-foot putt and got up-and-down from just off the green on the par-5, 11th. The big birdie putt came on the difficult par-4, 17th, where he drained a 40-foot, downhill, left-to-right slider. And even though he missed a 10-footer for birdie at 18, he wasn’t complaining.
“I also had decent birdie opportunities at 12, 13 and 14, but none (putts) went in,” he said. “All in all, though, it was a good, solid round, and I’m in a good position.”
Henley’s round was a little more wild. He had eight birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.
“I didn’t make many pars our there today,” said the winner of the 2010 Haskins Award as college player of the year. “It was pretty crazy.”
Henley, who last month tied for 16th and low-amateur honors at the U.S. Open, started the day with a bogey at the first hole. He followed with birdies at Nos. 3, 5 and 6, but gave two shots back with a double bogey at the seventh.
He birdied Nos. 9 and 12, but made bogey at 13 and 15 before closing with birdies at 16 and 18.
“My putter was working really well and I was able to make a lot of birdies,” Henley said. “The wind wasn’t as strong as yesterday and it was in the opposite direction, which made some holes play tougher.
“But the rain last night made the greens soft and you could go for the pin and that’s what I did,” Henley said. “I gave myself a lot of good chances at birdie and make quite of few of them.”
Henley has been in this situation many times before and has on numerous occasions come out on top, including last season’s Southeastern Conference Championship and NCAA South Central Regional.
For McCoy, it’s new ground being covered in his search for a big breakthrough victory. And for Rudolph, it’s like a time warp to when he used to dominate junior, amateur and college golf.
One thing is for sure: When this trio tees off in Thursday’s third round, it should be interesting, if not extremely entertaining.