DEAL, England –– England’s Garrick Porteous survived a war of attrition to become the 118th British Amateur champion.
Porteous, who defeated Finland’s Toni Hakula, 6 and 5, in the final, also has the British weather to thank for helping him win.
“It feels unbelievable,” Porteous said. “I can’t quite get to grips with it right now. It might take a couple of days but it’s a massive achievement. To follow some of the names on that trophy is unbelievable. You look up to those people when you’re growing up, and to be alongside them is a really nice achievement.”
Strong winds made for brutal conditions in the scheduled 36-hole final at Royal Cinque Ports. Steady winds of around 25-35 mph, with gusts reaching 50 mph, turned the final into a grind.
Porteous benefited from more experience in those conditions. The Englishman spent four years at Tennessee before graduating with a degree in studio art in December. However, he honed his game by playing many competitions on links over the years, often in conditions similar to those at Royal Cinque Ports.
“I definitely had an advantage in the wind today,” Porteous said. “Growing up on links golf, it’s second nature to me. I know how to hit it low, hit it high, chip and run. I wasn’t intimidated by the wind. I knew it was going to be a grind out there.”
The winds were so strong that Porteous took a three-hole lead at lunch thanks to a score of 82. That was two shots better than Hakula’s 84. No birdies were recorded in the first 18 holes. The first came at the 23rd hole when Porteous made a four on the 540-yard, par-5 fifth hole to go 4 up. Thankfully, it was playing downwind.
Another birdie followed at the 457-yard, par-4 ninth hole when Porteous holed a 40-foot birdie putt. It, too, played downwind. Hakula didn’t record his first birdie until the 28th hole. By then, it was too late.
Cinque Ports, venue for the 1909 and 1920 Open Championships, is a classic out-and-back links. The prevailing wind is from the southwest. The last seven holes head back toward the clubhouse and the town of Deal, and play into the teeth of the wind.
Forget teeth. The wind had fangs.
“From 12 in this morning was unbelievable,” Porteous said. “I knew having a half decent lead at 12 was key, because I knew I could just make pars coming in. He wasn’t going to make many birdies in that wind on those holes. That was massive.”
Hakula just couldn’t get to grips with the conditions. Three down at lunch became five down after 27 holes and he was struggling after that. He won the 28th hole with his only birdie, but lost the 30 and 31st holes, which ended his dreams of becoming only the second Finn after Mikko Ilonen to win the British Amateur.
“It was tough,” said Hakula, a senior at the University of Texas. “We both hit a lot of errant shots to start with. A lot of bogeys won holes. I thought if I could make a couple of putts it could have been closer. I missed a lot of short ones. That put me back so far that it was hard to get back ahead. It’s hard to come back when you can’t make birdies in that weather.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done. If someone had said at the start of the week I’d get a pass to the final I would have taken it. Of course, it’s disappointing to lose.”
Porteous is the first Englishman to win this championship since Gary Wolstenholme at Royal Troon in 2003. Porteous is now assured of a Walker Cup spot. He can also look forward to spots in next month’s Open Championship at Muirfield, and next year’s Masters and U.S. Open.
“To get into the Open is awesome,” Porteous said. “Muirfield is only about an hour and a half from my house so I’m sure I’ll have a lot of local fans. That will be a nice advantage.”
The 23-year-old is an artist in his spare time. He can now look forward to four pretty good canvases on which to display his talent, beginning with Muirfield next month.