July 26, 1999
NORMAN, Okla. - With 19 players within five strokes of the lead going into the final round, the stage was set for a shootout July 24 in the 41st Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club. And, while most of those in contention fell by the wayside, it didn't prevent this year's championship from producing a two-man slugfest down the stretch and, for the second consecutive year, a winner who was decided in a playoff.
Hunter Haas, 22, of Norman, Okla., and the leader by two strokes going into the final round, closed with a 2-under-par 68 for an 8-under 272 total and then beat Jonathan Byrd, 21, of Columbia, S.C., with a par on the third hole of the scheduled three-hole playoff. Byrd, who had a closing 66, and Haas each parred the first two playoff holes - the par-3 16th and the par-4 17th.
At the 190-yard, par-3 18th, Byrd's tee shot found the bunker behind the narrow stretch of green where the pin was tucked. Haas was also past the pin, about 20 feet in the first cut of fringe.
Byrd blasted out and, with the green sloping down, rolled six feet past the hole. Haas putted and the ball swerved three feet to the right. When Byrd's par attempt lipped the right edge of the cup and slid away, Haas followed by knocking his par putt into the center of the hole.
"Trust me, I was shaking over that last putt," said Haas, who last week won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. "But it's times like those where you have to believe in yourself and trust your stroke."
When Haas, who tied for sixth in last year's Porter Cup, birdied the par-5 11th to go 10-under for the tournament, he had a four-shot cushion. But Byrd, a first team All-America as a junior at Clemson last season, birdied the par-3 12th seconds later to move to 7-under. Haas then bogeyed the par-5 13th after his tee shot found the left rough - just inches in bounds - and fell to 9-under.
Byrd closed the gap when he sank a 12 footer for birdie at No. 17 and while he was parring the 18th, Haas was bogeying 17 after hitting his tee shot in a bunker, coming up 30 yards short of the green, then missing a six footer to save par. The three hole playoff format was used for the first time in Porter Cup history.
"This has been an unbelievable two weeks. I'm tired, I'm golfed out, but, boy, does it feel good," Haas said. "Winning the Public Links was big, but this is equally as big. This is one of the top three or four amateur tournaments in the country and other than maybe the U.S. Amateur you won't find a stronger field than the one here this week."
(Release was contributed by Ron Balieki, Golfweek Senior Writer)