It’s my favorite question to ask in the pro shop. ¶ What’s the course record?” ¶ (No, not because it’s in jeopardy when I step to the first tee). I’m always fascinated by the answer, because each one has its own, unique story to go along with it. For this year’s golf preview section, The Buffalo News set about trying to compile a database of every available course record in Western New York and Southern Ontario. More than 90 courses, both public and private, were contacted. ¶ First, a few ground rules:
• Our definition of course record is as follows: a legitimate round (no gimmes) shot from the back set of tees, recognized by the course.
• Courses change. We get that. The race to keep up with technology means many courses have added length – sometimes several times. The accompanying chart lists current yardages. The record may have been set when the course played shorter. Again, we defer to the course on what they determine their record to be.
• In cases where courses have several different records (men and women, different sets of tees, etc.) the record from the tips is recognized.
• Par-3 and executive courses are not included. Those not listed either informed The News they do not have an established record, or failed to respond to requests.
The oldest known record is held by one of the greatest golfers of all time.
Ben Hogan, perhaps the best ball-striker in history, set the Brookfield Country Club record of 64 during the 1948 Western Open.
“The stone-faced, 137-pounder from Hershey, Pa., who hits like a heavyweight and putts like a billiard shark turned the sun-filled finale into a rout,” is how the AP described Hogan’s round, in which he defeated Porky Oliver in a playoff – doing it in such a way he “had his pudgy opponent rooting for him at the finish.”
Hogan’s course record has since been tied twice, by Alex Greer and Robert McLaughlin.
There are other amazing historical facts among area record holders.
Take Niagara-Orleans Country Club in Middleport. Current owner Dan Graney shares the story of its record holder, Ralph Stonehouse: “His claim to fame – and this is a true story – is he was the first person to tee off in the first Masters in 1934.”
Stonehouse split the fairway with his tee shot at Augusta, then knocked a 5-iron onto the green for an easy par.
He owned Niagara-Orleans from 1955 to ’61, and set the record of 9-under 62 in 1960.
Graney himself set and still owns a share of the record at the Niagara County course in Lockport, carding a 7-under 65 in 1964.
“I actually lipped it out on 17 and 18. Otherwise, I would’ve had 63,” he said.
Graney’s record was matched by Lonnie Nielsen, the former Crag Burn head professional who owns or shares records at four area courses. Nielsen most recently set the record of 67 at Arrowhead in Akron.
“That’s where I qualified for the U.S. Senior Open,” he said. “I birdied the last hole to win by one.”
Nielsen, a Champions Tour veteran, isn’t the only player with professional experience to own a local record. PGA Tour member and Clarence resident Dudley Hart shot a 9-under 61 at the Country Club of Buffalo in 2011, while Dustin Johnson’s 65 in 2006 is the record at the Links at Ivy Ridge.
Locally, Williamsville’s Jake Katz owns three course records – at his home course of Westwood, Audubon and Cherry Hill.
Katz shot a 64 at Westwood in 2009. During his round, he ran off six straight birdies – his longest such run.
At Audubon, he wasn’t even sure he was going to play, but some friends need a fourth so he jumped in at the last minute – then proceeded to go 7-under on his first nine holes.
“It’s the only 29 I’ve ever shot,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to think nobody has ever played those courses and had a better score.”
Clarence’s Matt Stasiak owns the record at his home course of Fox Valley and Sheridan Park.
His 8-under 63 in 2007 on the tough Tonawanda layout came shortly after he had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“That was the first week I started getting really sick,” he said. “I think I shot 30 on the front nine and remembered thinking ‘if I can shoot 29 on the back, I’d have a 59.’ ”
There is not a recorded 59 in Western New York – the closest being current PGA Tour member Bill Haas’ 60 during the 2003 Porter Cup at Niagara Falls CC.
East Amherst’s Danny Yustin is another double record holder.
He carded a 9-under 63 at Deerwood in North Tonawanda while still a high school senior. The current junior on the University of Hartford golf team also owns the course record of 65 at Niagara Frontier Country Club.
“I didn’t know much about the course record,” he said. “I just remember putting really well.”
Yustin’s 65 isn’t the lowest score ever recorded at NFCC – former assistant pro Jason Polka shot a 63 as a 16-year-old from the member tees – but is recognized because it was from the tips.
“It kind of makes you look back and say, ‘wow, I did something special that day,’ ” he said.
We agree, and feel those accomplishments deserve to be honored. So here’s to the record holders, who have given us all something to chase after.