LEWISTON, N.Y.- For a few months this spring, it seemed like the Porter Cup would never happen. But Steve Denn wouldn't be discouraged.
"It's a labor of love, obviously," the tournament director said. "This year was a little bit more difficult frankly than prior years partly because of the condition of the course back in May. Then the light switch almost seemed to go off, 'OK, it's Porter Cup mode. I need to start really focusing on getting the tournament going."
The Porter Cup, the world's top amateur tournament, begins on July 22 and runs through July 26. The fact that the tournament is happening is the result of much hard work.
"I had at least five or six players and parents contact me to see if the Porter Cup was going to be cancelled," Denn said. "I was nervous. We got a late start to a lot of things but the course has rebounded tremendously."
The grounds supervisor should be commended for the incredible job he did, Denn said. There are barely any signs of a long, tough winter.
Denn should know.
When it comes to the Porter Cup, he is something of an expert.
He caddied for players that his parents housed during the tournament for many years before he started as a ball spotter in the 1970s. In 2001, he became tournament director.
"I grew up at the tournament, so I'm going to do everything I can to make sure traditions and prestige are upheld," Denn said. "Everybody wants to give back in some way to the community – whatever their cause may be. I've been on earth now for 45 years and I'm looking at things I love and outside of my family, the Porter Cup is next. That's going to be the way I choose to give back for the foreseeable future."
While the job has many responsibilities and can be very stressful (regardless of the weather), Denn isn't going anywhere.
"Right now I'm fully committed," he said. "I don't see any end in sight… as long as they'll have me. Hopefully I don't do anything to warrant their decision to change but quite frankly I don't think there's anyone else who wants the job right now."
13-year-old Will Thompson, an eighth-grader from Pittsford, will be included in the field.
Thompson has had quite the summer so far.
He won the International Junior Masters in East Aurora in June, and became the youngest golfer ever to qualify for the USGA's U.S. Amateur Championship, which will be August 11-17.
"The golf seems to be getting younger and younger," Denn said. "Last week we saw an 11-year-old in the U.S. Women's Open. I don't look at (Thompson's inclusion) as a gimmick. I'm going to go by merit. I saw that he won the Junior Masters. He's the boys champion of New York and that's obviously a nice title, but it's fourteen and under."
The decision to invite Thompson still wasn't necessarily easy.
"When he qualified for the U.S. Amateurs yesterday, I felt his game was ready," Denn said. "If he's ready for the U.S. Amateur then he's certainly ready for the Porter Cup. I didn't immediately give him the invitation. I consulted with Gavin Hall (whom Thompson beat by four strokes to qualify for the U.S. Amateurs) and asked him if he was the real deal. He said yes, so I thought it'd be nice. It adds another regional player."
Hall is a University of Texas sophomore that is considered by many an up-and-coming golfer. He is a Pittsford Mendon graduate.
Denn said he is extremely happy with the rest of this year's field, which includes locals: Gavin Hall of Pittsford, Trevor Sluman of Rochester and Raman Luthra, Patrick Sheedy Jr. and Danny Yustin all of East Amherst.
The tournament at Niagara Falls Country Club has hosted some of the biggest names in golf since it began in 1959: Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Scott Verplank and Ben Crenshaw have been past champions. 2013 champion Taylor Pendrith returns to defend his title.