LEWISTON — Michael Carrig was determined to make his opponents beat him over three days in the Buffalo District Golf Association’s Men’s Match Play Invitational.
Carrig played smart, low-risk golf Saturday to earn a 3-and-2 victory over Danny Yustin at Niagara Falls Country Club to win the Buffalo District Golf Association Match Play championship. He was content to fire at the middle of the green, confident he could two putt and move on to the next hole. That’s exactly what happened Saturday, as Carrig did not record a three-putt in the 16 holes played in the match.
“Through four matches, par won a lot of holes,” the 23-year-old Carrig said. “I knew to make pars and make him beat me.”
Match play is all about momentum, and for Carrig it came on the fourth hole. Holding a 1-up lead, Carrig’s drive on the 196-yard, par-3 hole found the bunker, while Yustin was inside 15 feet for his birdie attempt. After blasting out of the sand, Carrig had a 25-foot attempt left to save par.
He knocked it in, and when Yustin missed his birdie attempt, Carrig maintained his lead.
“It was a huge up and down for myself. I struggle on that hole for some reason. Just to be able to get it up and down out of a really tough spot was big for my confidence,” Carrig said.
“That was a great putt he made. I liked the putt I made on that hole. Looking back on it, I don’t think I would have changed it, but if I made that birdie, I think things could have been a little bit different,” Yustin said.
Carrig, a Buffalo native and graduate of Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School, recently finished his collegiate playing career at Canisius. Last fall, he won the Little Three Championship with a 36-hole score of 140 to earn a berth into this summer’s Porter Cup at NFCC.
Saturday’s win was his first in a Buffalo District men’s event; as a junior he won stroke play and match play championships.
“It means a lot. It’s a good field with lot of good players,” he said. “It’s definitely very rewarding.”
Carrig extended his lead to 2 up when he made a par on the par-3 seventh hole and Yustin was unable to get up and down from the sand. The lead went to 3 up on the next hole when Carrig two-putted for par and Yustin three-putted for bogey.
“I wasn’t even trying to be aggressive, I just didn’t have the speed down,” Yustin said. “I mean, I’d think after five rounds I’d have the speed down, but that wasn’t the case.”
Yustin, who won the WNY Open at NFCC on Monday, played 117 holes over a six-day stretch. His path to the final went like this: a 7-and-5 victory over Brandon Grzywacz in the round of 32, a 1-up decision against Bob Rosen in the round of 16, a 2-and-1 win against Billy Hanes in the quarterfinals and a 2-and-1 win over Mark Drabik in the semifinals.
Yustin, though, couldn’t keep up the momentum Saturday.
“I didn’t drive the ball very well today,” he said. “I left myself in really bad spots and I hit worse shots after hitting a bad shot.”
Carrig’s lead shrunk to 2 up when he bogeyed the par-4 10th hole, but he quickly regained a 3-up lead when he won the 11th with a par-5. Yustin’s drive found the left rough, and he was able to advance his second shot only about 20 yards.
“The lie wasn’t great, but the lie wasn’t an excuse,” he said. “It was just a poor swing. I had a rescue in my hand, which is basically designed to hit it out of the rough.”
Carrig missed a prime opportunity to go 4 up when he missed a short birdie putt on the par-3 12th hole, but he took his 3-up lead to the 15th tee. Needing to make a move, Yustin ripped a driver on the 342-yard par 4, leaving himself pin high. He got up and down for a birdie to close Carrig’s lead to 2.
“Danny made a great putt on 15 for birdie. That definitely made me think quite a bit. I was definitely getting a little bit nervous,” Carrig said.
He didn’t have to worry for long. Carrig hit the green on the par-3 16th, while Yustin missed right. After chipping on, Yustin missed his par putt, meaning Carrig needed only to two putt to seal the win. No problem. Carrig’s run to the final included a 2-and-1 victory over Mike McNulty in the round of 32, a 3 and 2 win against Brian Rajczak in the round of 16, a 1-up decision against John Edwards in the quarterfinals and a 1-up victory against Matt Stasiak in the semifinals.
This was the first time the match play field has been contested with 32 players, up from 16 in previous years.