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Porter Cup Golf: New approach helps Jurkiewicz qualify

Brian Jurkiewicz shot a round of 70 at Niagara Falls Country Club to qualify for the upcoming Porter Cup.
When golf got to be too frustrating for Brian Jurkiewicz last winter, the Hamburg native gave up the sport he’s spent so much time playing.

With the former standout on the Frontier High School golf team shooting in the 80s and feeling dissatisfied with his play, Jurkiewicz knew it was time to put the clubs down and give himself a break from the game he’d been playing virtually his entire life.

But the one-time high school state qualifier wouldn’t stay off the course for long. Though he decided against playing in college, Jurkiewicz got increasingly back into the game this spring, but made sure to keep it on a more recreational basis.

As his freshman year at St. Bonaventure neared completion, he began to play the sport as he used to but with a different attitude. He felt the game was no longer all encompassing in his life. It now felt more like a sport that he could enjoy and doing well would merely be an added bonus to the opportunity to simply play.

He recently played so well, and composed, Jurkiewicz accomplished a feat he fell short of on several occasions when playing the game on a more consistent basis. Jurkiewicz shot a 70, then knocked in a par putt on a playoff hole at a Porter Cup qualifying event last month at the Niagara Falls Country Club to qualify to play against some of the world’s top college and mid-amateur golfers at the prestigious event July 18 to 21.

He finished tied for fourth then survived a five-man playoff to earn a Porter Cup qualifying spot, finishing in the top eight in the tournament. The Porter Cup will be played on the same course at the Niagara Falls Country Club.

“My demeanor has changed toward the sport. I have just tried to focus on relaxing more,” said Jurkiewicz, who carded a pair of 35s on the front and back ends of the course. “I had tried to qualify for the Porter Cup three or four times before but shot 73s or 74s and just couldn’t get it.”

A year or two ago, Jurkiewicz may not have come up with the type of composure he showed on June 25, but now feels like a different type of golfer when he gets on the course. There are no teams to play for or junior ranks to reach any longer. Now, he’s just doing it for the enjoyment.

“I couldn’t let go of the bad shots,” said the member of Brierwood Country Club in Hamburg. “There’s something about the sport that will never be the same anymore. I don’t have as much emotional baggage tied to every shot.”

He recalled just two years ago shooting a two-under par going into the 15th hole of a Porter Cup qualifying event and “blowing it up on the last few holes.” That would not be the case this year.

Though he admitted to not driving the ball well throughout the day, Jurkiewicz made 13 up and downs over the course of 18 holes and his short game was very effective as he only needed 21 putts for the round.

“I just told myself to stay with it,” Jurkiewicz said. “I wanted to keep hitting good shots until the end and always give myself a chance on each hole. I tried not to think about what was at stake. I just kept going up there and finishing the holes.”

His confidence soared when he made an eight-foot putt for bogey on the 16th, which could have wound up being one of those disastrous late holes “That was the point where I thought I really thought I could have a good shot (at qualifying),” he said.

On the playoff hole, six players were vying for the remaining five Porter Cup berths. Once he noticed that one of the players would bogey, Jurkiewicz said he concentrated on simply going up and down to make an easy par and put himself in elite company as a Porter Cup qualifier. The Porter Cup field will only include eight golfers from New York State, four of whom are Western New Yorkers.

“I’m excited to be playing in the tournament,” said Jurkiewicz, who was once ranked as high as fourth in the junior rankings. “It’s a great tournament...I always knew I could play and this proves it.”

Jurkiewicz picked the clubs back up with a new frame of mind. He hopes that only continues in the Porter Cup with a more simple approach to the game. “My game plan is just to hit good shots and have a good tournament,” he said.

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