FORT ERIE, Ont. – Five minutes made all the difference in the world to Austin Nowak.
That’s how close the Lancaster golfer was to missing the registration for the Buffalo District Golf Association Men’s Individual Championship.
Nowak hadn’t played in any BDGA events in more than two years but had heard the annual event was lacking the usual number of participants. He decided to inquire as to whether the association was looking for extra players for the event.
“I knew they were kind of hurting for guys because it’s in Canada. Usually it’s about 70 guys, it was only 55 this year,” Nowak said. “So I called them after another Buffalo District event was cancelled, the Lonnie Nielsen. I made the cut in this event two years ago and then I played in the Porter Cup last year. I also had a pretty good junior record in” BDGA events, “so they let me in.”
Tuesday, the North Carolina State senior walked away from his first BDGA event of 2014 a champion. His 219 score gave him a two-stroke victory over Danny Yustin of East Amherst.
Nowak led the three-day, 54-hole event wire-to-wire, shooting 69 in the first round to open up a comfortable lead.
He entered Tuesday’s action with a three-stroke lead over Yustin. Early on his odds at victory looked like a near lock. He shot par on the first hole while his only real challenger, Yustin, double bogeyed.
Just as he approached the second hole to tee off, the horn sounded, signaling a rain delay. The delay lasted for more than 90 minutes as players and officials discussed a possible cancellation.
Since most of the golfers had prior commitments, the round wouldn’t have been made up. Nowak would have been named champion.
After the delay, the golfers hit the course for a tentative restart. If the rain and lightning kept up, the round would be called after nine holes. As the round went on, the weather improved and it became clear the entire 18-hole round would be played.
This was a detriment to Nowak who was banking on a rainout. He three-putted the second and third holes and bogeyed three of the early holes after the delay.
“I was kind of in the mindset that we were going to get a rainout,” Nowak said. “I was playing real bad on that front nine. I kind of thought they were going to call it and I was going to win it by the rain delay.”
After the fifth hole, Nowak realized he was going to have to play the entire round and his play improved accordingly. He bogeyed the ninth hole but hit consecutive birdies on 12 and 13 to take a three-stroke lead over Yustin.
“Once I figured out by hole six that it wasn’t going to happen, I was like, ‘Let’s get it together, because Danny’s playing pretty well,’ ” Nowak said.
Nowak bogeyed the 18th hole but retained a two-shot lead over Yustin, who finished with an overall score of 221. Desmond Stoll took third place.
Nowak’s victory means he receives an automatic invite to next year’s BDGA Men’s Individual Championship, which will be held at his home course, Lancaster Country Club.