Director of Golf Tom Porten gives tips on how to properly line up before your golf shot
Entering his seventh season in charge of the NIU men’s golf team in 2015-16, Director of Golf Tom Porten has taken advantage of one America’s finest golf courses, Rich Harvest Farms, by bringing in student-athletes that have vaulted the Huskies into Mid-American Conference Championship contenders.
In his previous six seasons at the helm, the Huskies have had three individual medalists as Bryce Emory claimed first place at the Jim West Intercollegiate in 2013 and Jeff Dick won the Bearcat Invitational in 2011 and the Branson Creek Invitational in 2010. As a team the Huskies have finished runner-up three times and have twice finished third.
Off the course, Porten has helped the “Home of the Huskies’ Rich Harvest Farms, annually ranked as one of Golf Digest’s Top-100 courses in America, bring the 2014 NCAA Division I Golf Regional and the 2017 NCAA Division I Championships to NIU. Rich Harvest Farms played host to the 2007 NCAA Regional and has also hosted several PGA, LPGA and amateur events.
Porten was announced as the third Head Men’s Golf Coach in program history on August 20, 2009, after head coaching stops at Akron and his alma mater Cleveland State, where he led the Vikings to an NCAA Regional appearance in 2006.
Prior to the 2012-13 season, Porten was announced as the Huskies’ Director of Golf, overseeing both the men’s and women’s teams. Since assuming the responsibilities, both the men’s and women’s programs have finished fourth at the Mid-American Conference Tournament - the women’s team best MAC Tournament performance in program history and the men’s highest finish since 1985.
Coming off a strong 2014-15 season, where NIU recorded seven top-10 team finishes and three top-five performances out of 11 competitions, members of the NIU men’s golf program have continued consistent and strong play in the summer to prepare for the 2015-16 season.
Joo-Young Lee, who finished 15th at the Mid-American Conference Tournament, won the Ohio Amateur Championship, joining the likes of PGA legend Arnold Palmer and 2003 British Open Champion Ben Curtis. Jordan Wetsch qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship at Olympia Fields while Nick Huggins qualified for Regional Qualifying of the U.S. Open. Lee and Class of 2015 signee Salvador Rocha, the No. 1 ranked junior in Mexico, also earned invitations to play in the Western Amateur at Rich Harvest Farms.
The Huskies gained momentum at the end of the fall season with a ninth-place finish at Erin Hills, site of the 2017 U.S. Open, and closed the year with a third-place finish at the Sagamore Preview, trailing only then No. 1 Illinois and No. 8 Auburn in the final standings. Wetsch would tie for fifth in the tournament to earn MAC Golfer of the Week honors.
NIU followed up its strong finish to the fall season as it only finished out of the top-10 once in six tournaments. The Huskies posted consecutive fifth-place finishes in Florida at the Talis Park Challenge, where NIU shot a season-best 282 in the opening round, and at the FAU Slomin Autism Invitational. Lee finished fifth at FAU to earn the Huskies second Mid-American Conference Golfer of the Week honors.
In the season finale at Mayfield Sand Ridge Club, the Huskies played the best final two rounds of the tournament to finish fourth at the MAC Tournament led by Wetsch’s 10th place and Lee’s 15th place showings. Lee would later earn Academic All-MAC honors.
In his first event at the helm of the Huskie men's golf program, Porten's NIU team carded a second-round score of four-under par 280 at the Spartan Classic on Sept. 19, 2009 that ranks as the third-best 18-hole score in program history. The Huskies finished the event with a 54-hole score of 883 to take ninth-place in the 14-team tournament, determined to build on the second round score.
Over the course of the 2009-10 season, NIU did just that. Working with Porten, players made improvements, especially in all phases of the short game. The hard work paid off in the spring, when the team posted top-10 finishes in five of seven events. A fourth-place finish at the Missouri State Invite proved to be a highlight of Porten's first season, as Jeff Dick won the individual title and Griffin Bauman finished third. In the first MAC Championships of the Porten era, Jeff Dick secured a fifth-place individual finish while the team finished sixth.
The 2010-11 season produced more results; the Huskies turned in top-10 finishes in seven of the 13 events they competed in. Aided by Dick's second career individual title, NIU claimed a runner-up finish at the Bearcat Invitational in October. The performance netted the team their best finish since their victory at the 2008 Davidson Invitational. A third-place showing at the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational in April featured four Huskies in the top 20. NIU posted another sixth-place finish at the 2011 MAC Championships at TPC River's Bend.
Porten lost three seniors (Jeff Dick, Andrew Frame, Tim Kay) who had been anchors in the lineup for the past half decade after the 2010-11 season, making 2011-12 a rebuilding year. Under Porten's guidance, the underclassmen showed flashes of brilliancd throughout the season. NIU notched four top-five finishes, one more than in the prior year, at the Cardinal Intercollegiate, UCF Rio Pinar Invitational, FAU Spring Break Championship, and the COG Mizzou Intercollegiate. The season culminated with a seventh-place finish at the 2012 MAC Championships held at Rich Harvest Farms.
An Ohio native, Porten has previous experience in the Mid-American Conference. He was the head men's golf coach at Akron in 2006-07, and spent one season as the associate head coach at MAC golf powerhouse Kent State in 2007-08. Prior to that, he spent 15 years at Cleveland State University as the head men's golf coach and then created and led the women's program at the school.
Porten spent much of 2008 and 2009 as Director of Instruction at GolfTEC Cleveland East in Beachwood, Ohio where he has taught more than 1,600 lessons to 200 clients, including some of the region's top collegiate and prep players. In one season as Associate Head Coach for both the men's and women's golf teams at Kent State, he assisted in all phases of coaching, recruiting, fundraising and administration for the Top 30 Division I program. While there, both teams finished with the highest ranking in school history (men - 12th; women - 13th).
Porten also achieved similar results as the head men's golf coach at Akron in 2006-07 as the Zips won a school-record four tournaments and posted their top finish at the MAC Championships with a second-place showing.
During his tenure at Cleveland State, his alma mater, Porten turned a program that did not award scholarships when he arrived in 1991 into a conference championship team in 1998. He earned Midwest Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year honors for that effort. Two years later, he added duties as Cleveland State's director of golf operations and head women's golf coach for the start-up program.
In his last season at CSU in 2005-06, the Vikings' men's team won the Horizon League Championship to earn the first automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals in school history. Porten picked up his third conference coach of the year honor.
At each of his collegiate coaching stops, in addition to his coaching responsibilities, Porten has been involved in managing tournaments, including events at Firestone Country Club in Akron, fundraising - through tournaments and corporate sponsorships - and community service efforts.
The 51-year-old Porten is just the third head coach in the history of the NIU men's golf program.
THIRD PLACE FINISHES UNDER PORTEN Sagamore Preview, Oct. 14, 2015 FAU Spring Break Challenge, March 25, 2012
NIU MEDALISTS UNDER PORTEN Bryce Emory, Jim West Intercollegiate, 71-72-73=216 (E) April 9, 2013 Jeff Dick, Bearcat Invitational, 68-69-72=209 (-7) Oct. 12, 2010 Jeff Dick, Branson Creek Invitational, 68-69-73=210 (-3) April 6, 2010