LEWISTON — An established presence on the Western New York golf scene was eclipsed only by a rising star Monday at the Western New York Open.
Amateur Dan Yustin fired a sterling round of 3-under 67 at frigid Niagara Falls Country Club. That was three shots better than anyone else in the 71-player field, which was made up of 47 professionals and 24 of the area’s top amateurs for the first major of the season in the Western New York PGA section.
Dwayne Randall of Peek’n Peak, the defending four-time Western New York PGA Player of the Year, led the professionals in the field with a round of even par 70. Randall hit a 6-iron to 4 feet on the par-3 18th hole and converted the birdie putt to give him a one-shot victory over Chris Stoddard of Park.
“Play conservative. Take an extra club, play for the middle of the fairway and play for the middle of the green. Don’t try to do too much out there,” the 40-year-old Randall said of his strategy.
On a day the temperature hovered in the 40s, but felt colder with the wind whipping across the escarpment, Randall played a “one-club wind.”
“It’s so early in the season. This is my third round of golf. Everyone’s kind of like, ‘get the club on the ball and keep it in front of you,’ ” he said. “I’m not disappointed, but I’m not overly happy either. It’s about what I expected really.”
Randall, who played in the second-to-last group, also made a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 14th hole and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 third hole. His birdie on the last was tough to stomach for Stoddard, who was in the first group out and watched his round of 1-over 71 hold up almost all day among the professionals.
“Every time I made a birdie, I would always give it right back,” said Stoddard, a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure. He carded four birdies and five bogeys.
“I think I got actually really lucky playing in the first group,” Stoddard said. “There was no wind, although it was chilly.”
Yustin turned in the round of the day. The Canisius High School graduate recently wrapped up his sophomore season with the University of Hartford golf team, and his game certainly was in top form.
Yustin birdied the opening three holes.
“It was a good round. Playing college golf up north helped me adapt to the weather conditions,” he said. “We play six tournaments in the spring and half the time it’s like this or worse. So college golf has definitely helped me play in bad conditions.”
After his hot start, Yustin’s driver started to give him trouble, leading to a bogey on No. 5. He also three-putted for bogey at the 10th hole, but rebounded to make a birdie on the par-5 13th hole.
“From there it was smooth sailing,” Yustin said. “I didn’t do anything stupid out there.”
Yustin recorded his last birdie of the round on the difficult par-4 17th hole.
“My drive on 17, that was probably the best one of the day,” he said. “There’s out of bounds on both sides, and I hit like a 3-yard draw right down the middle. It set up for a birdie opportunity on a real tough hole and I ended up making birdie .”
Yustin, who plays out of Transit Valley Country Club and is from East Amherst, showed at the end of his collegiate season he could be a force in the Buffalo District this summer. He tied for fifth in the America Sky Conference championship at Dominion Country Club in San Antonio.
“I played really well the last two rounds there and I kind of used that as a springboard for this,” he said. “Obviously, this one feels really good. It’s only going to help my confidence get better.”
Amateur Patrick Sheedy, who plays out of Brookfield Country Club, matched Randall’s 70 to finish in a tie for second place overall.
Yustin, who qualified for last summer’s U.S. Amateur, will participate Wednesday in a regional qualifier for the U.S. Open in Syracuse at Bellevue Country Club. Then it’s back for the Buffalo District Golf Association men’s match play tournament at the end of the week.
“I’m going to play in as many district events as I can,” Yustin said.
Let the area’s top amateurs take note.