BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
Tom Portner is hoping his home course experience pays off this weekend.
The Mt. Vernon golfer missed the cut at this week's Illinois State Amateur held in Rockford this week, but he returns ready to play the Southern Illinois Golf Association Championship. The event is being held at Green Hills Golf Club.
“This is my home course for sure. It has been for a long time,” Portner said. “(I) had good success here in the Green Hills (Amateur) and SIGA.”
Portner has experienced plenty of recent and historical success on the Mt. Vernon course. The last time Green Hills hosted the championship, he won. Mostly recently Portner won the Green Hills amateur in a playoff over Matthew Williams about a month ago.
“The fairways are perfect. The course is in really, really good shape,” Portner said. “So you'll get what you deserve up there. You won't get any bad breaks.
“It is playing more difficult. There's no doubt about that. The greens are quicker, and they've been firming them up a little bit for these tournaments”
Portner traveled north to Rockford earlier this week and competed in the state amateur. He missed the cut after two rounds and finished tied for 79th out of 125 competitors. He shot a 158 overall after a first round score of 77 followed by an 81 in the second round.
“I didn't play well,” Portner said. “The heat wasn't an excuse, I just did not play well this week. I've been playing real well leading up to it so my expectations were pretty high and just didn't get it done. (It's) a funny game. You just don't know what you're going to get one day to the next. Unfortunately this week, it wasn't my best.”
His opening round consisted of 12 pars, four bogeys, a birdie and double bogey. He ended Wednesday's second round with seven pars and bogeys each mixed with a pair of birdies and double bogeys each.
Portner said after his opening round of 77, he knew he would have to be more aggressive on the second day of action. His round started with the back half of the golf course. He finished the nine holes, and opened the front nine with a pair of birdies. The low scores gave him a brief chance to make the cut and complete the final two rounds.
“I got within two shots of the cut line as it turns out,” Portner said. “I thought I needed about three more birdies to be honest with you.”
But a string of bogeys ended his hopes.
“I figured I needed to go for broke (Wednesday),” Portner said. “I had nothing to lose. I needed to go low so I took a lot of risks, and it didn't work out.”
Portner said winning the Green Hills amateur in June will give him added confidence as he approaches the course this weekend.
“It was a month ago,” Portner said. “Golf's real fickle from one day to the next so you can't really say that's going to give me any advantage, but mentally it does help.”
He added keys to success this weekend include staying close to the leaders early on.
“This is what I do every tournament, is just try to hang in there and just give myself a chance,” Portner said.
He starts the SIGA Championship with an 8:58 a.m. tee time Saturday.