Garrick Porteous became the first Englishman for a decade to win the Amateur Championship when he beat Finland’s Toni Hakula 6 and 5 in the 36-hole final at a wind-swept Royal Cinque Ports in Kent.
No English player has won this coveted title since Gary Wolstenholme in 2003 but, despite an early setback, Porteous forged ahead and is now poised for several key events after winning one of the amateur game’s most prestigious championships.
The 23 year old from the Bamburgh Castle club in Northumberland has not only staked a strong claim for a place in the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team in September but has secured a spot in next month’s Open Championship at Muirfield as well as a place in next year’s US Open at Pinehurst and a traditional invitation to the Masters in April.
A delighted Porteous said, “It’s quite a surreal feeling right now. I know there are a lot of famous names on that trophy. To be alongside them is pretty humbling. I felt confident coming into the week but I never got ahead of myself. I just played one shot at a time and it worked.
“I think it will hit me next week when I realise I will be playing in The Open. It is just over an hour away from my house so there will be a lot of local fans coming out to watch. I played Muirfield four years ago in The Amateur and it will feel pretty special to tee it up there in The Open.”
After losing the first hole of the morning round, Porteous surged into a four-hole lead against his 21-year-old opponent on the front nine and was never behind again as both players battled through winds gusting up to 40mph.
Although Hakula got off to that good start, winning with a par at the first, it was Porteous who adapted better to the inclement weather and he began to assert his dominance, winning four holes in-a-row from the sixth, all with pars.
Leading 4up at the turn gave the University of Tennessee graduate an important cushion for the challenging back nine playing into the wind.
Hakula won the tenth hole after Porteous hooked his drive and lost his ball. He went on to win the 12th while the 16th hole was a struggle for both players with Porteous losing his second shot in thick rough and Hakula hitting a spectator. But the Finn rolled in a 20ft putt to reduce the deficit to one hole.
Porteous stopped the rot by holing from 15ft to win the 17th and then the 18th after Hakula found the thick rough on the left from the tee.
Starting the afternoon round with a three-hole cushion, Porteous slipped up at the 20th hole but a par at the 21st was enough to stay 3up. A birdie at the 23rd after he got up-and-down from just off the green, took Porteous to 4up and there was no way back for the Finn.
A birdie on the 28th hole saw Porteous 5up and, although Hakula took the next with a birdie three, the Englishman was in control and a bogey on the 31st was enough to seal a 6&5 victory.
Hakula, who will go into his senior year studying economics at the University of Texas in August, said, “It hurts to lose and I feel like I didn’t play as well as I could even though the weather was tough. We both hit a lot of errant shots to start with and a lot of bogeys were winning holes but to be honest I missed a lot of short ones in the morning and it was tough to get back ahead.
“If somebody had given me a pass to the final at the start of the week I would have paid $10,000 for it! Hopefully I can come back next year and go one step better.”
Caption: Garrick Porteous, the 2013 Amateur Champion. Image courtesy the R&A