- Alistair Tait
Porteous was meant for the big stage
It was hard not pull for England’s Garrick Porteous in the final round of the Scottish Championship in St Andrews. When he tied for the lead in middle of the round, it looked like the 30 year old might finally live up to the hype he created seven years ago and win his first European Tour event.
Not all winners of the Amateur Championship get to do that.
I keep close tabs on winners of arguably the game’s greatest amateur tournament. Porteous won the Amateur Championship at Royal Cinque Ports (pictured) in 2013. After seven years trying to find professional success, he's fast approaching that file that includes Alan Dunbar (2012), Bryden Macpherson (2011), Reinier Saxton (2008), Drew Weaver (2007), Brian McElhinney (2005), Alejandro Larrazabal (2002), Warren Bladon (1996), Gordon Sherry (1995), Lee James (1994), Stephen Dundas (1992) and others. Players who lifted the Amateur Championship trophy and never lifted a European Tour one, or PGA Tour silver in Weaver’s case.
Porteous’s fourth place finish in St Andrews hopefully suggests he’ll join far more successful Amateur champions like Romain Langasque (2015), Jin Jeong (2010), Matteo Manassero (2009), Michael Hoey (2001), Mikko Ilonen (2000), Graeme Storm (1999), Sergio Garcia (1998), Rolf Muntz (1990), Stephen Dodd (1989) and Jose Maria Olazabal (1984) and win European Tour titles.
Porteous became the 2013 Amateur Champion when he defeated Finland’s Toni Hakula 6&5. He won what turned out to be a battle of attrition.
The final was played in some of the worst conditions ever seen for an Amateur Championship showdown. Winds of between 25-35mph blew for most of the 31 holes, with gusts reaching over 50mph. Rain fell for the morning’s 18 holes. The weather played into Porteous’s hands. The 23-year-old had much more experience of playing in wind and rain than Hakula.
The winds were so strong that Porteous took a three-hole lead at lunch thanks to a score of 82. Both players only recorded two birdies each all day.
I wrote about the continuing success of English golf a few days ago. I quoted Eddie Pepperell saying playing in conditions such as those of the 2013 Amateur Championship final is character building. It should help players prepare for the rigours of the European Tour. Yet seven years later and we’re still waiting for Porteous to come good.
The Northumberland resident has made five trips to the European Tour Qualifying School. He finally found success last year after a career spent mostly on the European Challenge Tour. Porteous won the 2017 Prague Golf Challenge on Europe's junior circuit by five shots. It's his main claim to fame other than winning the Amateur Championship.
His win at Deal was notable because Porteous wasn’t just another run of the mill amateur. The Colchester-born player had just graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Studio Art. He spent as much time in college trying to be creative on canvas as he did trying to hone his game for the professional ranks. He said the two disciplines weren’t that different.
“You’ve got to go through your preparations; you got to have a game plan similar to golf,” he said. “When you start painting well you get in a zone where you’re not really thinking about anything else, similar to golf with that mind set. I could write a whole book about the similarities.
“I talked a lot about it with my psychologist at university, Joe Whitney. That’s how we got things going, by focusing on the similarities between art and golf. I really work on the mental side by just doing art and it helps my golf.”
Porteous’s artistic side is no coincidence. His mother Sian made sure of that. In 2013, she explained why the newest Amateur Champion came with a name that sounded like it belongs on the stage rather than on the fairways.
“It’s a theatrical name,” Sian Porteous said. “Like the Garrick Theatre in London. It’s just a name I liked. I did hope one day he’d be artistic. I’m really glad he’s got artistic talent as well as golf talent. We’re very proud of him.”
There you have it: Garrick Porteous was meant for the big stage. Hopefully his best finish in a European Tour event is a dress rehearsal for bigger ovations, and he can join that list of Amateur champions to win on the European Tour.
#JustSaying: “Out there you are either bleeding, haemorrhaging or painting Mona Lisas.” Mac O’Grady