You’ll read in the Buffalo News that Michael Carrig of Springville CC and Caz Park defeated Dan Yustin of Transit Valley. You’ll learn that the two met in the finals of the Buffalo District Golf Association’s Match Play championship, the first important event of the 2013 season. You’ll discover that the field was the strongest seen in years, mainly due to the invitational stature of the event. Why might this old-fashioned championship be the most important result of the year?
Let’s start with the field. Defending champion and 2012 player of the year Raman Luthra was present. He won two matches before losing to Crag Burn club mate Mark Drabik in the quarterfinals. Drabik then went down to defeat at the hands of Yustin. Ryan Hawkins, the winner of the inaugural Erie County Amateur championship in 2012, lost to Billy Hanes after defeating Fred Silver in the first round. Billy and John Gaffney, son and father champions from Brookfield, both went down in the first round, losing to Bob Rosen and Luthra, respectively. 2010 Junior Masters champion Jonathan Clark defeated Sean Mahon in round one, before losing on the third extra hole to Drabik in round two.
All this without mentioning Matt Stasiak, Andy Bernatovicz, Mike Boss, James Blackwell or Kris Boyes. The field of 32 was stacked, so if you played, you’re a player. The Niagara Falls country club, whose course annually tests the world’s finest senior and regular amateur players (and will challenge the top female amateurs next month in the inaugural women’s Porter Cup) provided an excellent site for the event.
The match play is the type of tournament that every association needs. It’s the one where the experts can say “these guys should be there” and presto! they are. It’s not the Individual championship, where the vagaries of qualifying allow for poor rounds and absent champions. Area golf aficionados want to see the longest driver pitted against the best putter, the most accurate iron striker versus the best bunker player, and on.
Yustin won the Western New York Open last week on the same Lewiston course. The weather was much more pleasant this week and Yustin continued his march toward the top, until he ran into Carrig. After a storied career at Bishop Timon-St. Jude high school, Carrig went on to play college golf at Canisius. Yustin played his high school golf at Canisius and is currently a member of the varsity team at the University of Hartford.
Match play events often bring golfers back to their junior and high school days. Head to head competition equates golf with other sports like no other format. Since you are paired with your opponent, there’s no hiding from destiny. Each golfer’s decision and result resonates with immediacy for his opponent. The problem with match play is the one-and-done nature; lose your match and head home. With medal play, all golfers play multiple days (unless there’s a cut), offering the opportunity for vindication and retribution.
Chris Covelli, one of the competitors, summed it up like this: It’s nice to have an event with that format because everything else we play in is stroke play. I think it was a great move growing the field to 32 – having to win 5 matches, you definitely find out whose game is in the best shape.