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Yustin shares lead at Junior Masters

Shooting only six pars in the first round of the International Junior Masters usually doesn't get you very far. But on Tuesday, that was all Daniel Yustin needed for his 2-over 73 at East Aurora Country Club.

Yustin, a recent graduate of Canisius High School and East Amherst resident, had an up-and-down day, leaving him in a six-way tie for the low score in the opening round of the 59th annual tournament.

"I made six pars all day and to shoot this with only six pars," Yustin said, "I'll take that any day."

The other five players in the tie at 73 were: Matt Lemay of Waterloo, Ont., a semifinalist last year as a 14 year old; Mauricio Lira of Mexico City; Trevor Sluman of Rochester, nephew of PGA Tour and Champions Tour member Jeff Sluman; Jose Narro of Seabrook, Texas, and Rhyne McLeod Jones of Blowing Rock, N.C.

The tournament's 82 golfers will resume play today with a second round of medal play, with the championship flight being determined at its conclusion. The top 32 will be placed into the championship flight and play their first round of match play this afternoon.

Yustin, the reigning All-Catholic champion, is set to play golf at University of Hartford next fall and is hoping to improve on his performance from last year when he failed to qualify for the championship flight.

He said he spent extra time working on his short irons for this week. That worked paid off as he opened his round with an easy birdie set up by a pitching wedge to within a foot of the cup.

"I hit some good shots and I made some putts," Yustin said. "I hit a couple bad shots too. But that will happen."

One shot behind Yustin at 74 were ECIC champion Sean Mahon of East Amherst and Austin Nowak of Lancaster.

It was a similar tale for Mahon, who struggled with consistency. He started the day with a 3-under 32 on the front nine but finished with a 6-over 42 on the back. The Williamsville East graduate is set to play for Division II Gannon University.

"The front nine was solid and the back nine was just bad," Mahon said with a laugh.

Mahon's four birdies on the front nine were highlighted by a chip-in on the par-4 fifth and a 40-foot putt on the par-3 eighth.

But on the back nine the wind picked up and so did Mahon's scores. He said the wind was a major contributor for his score on the back nine, which included a triple bogey on the par-4 No. 11 hole.

Even Mahon's 8-iron became a victim on the back nine. He addressed his approach on the par-3 13th as he normally would, but the club head flew off from his shaft right after contact.

Mahon laughed about the situation after his round and said he'll need to borrow a new club from one of his friends.

"If someone told me that I would shoot 74 at the start of the day I would be pleased," Mahon said. "But, obviously shooting 32 on the front, I was expecting something a little bit better. Overall in these conditions I'm satisfied."

As for North Tonawanda's James Blackwell, his 7-over 78 wasn't quite up to his expectations for his first Junior Masters. The St. Joe's senior made a splash on the local golf scene after he was the first-round leader and second-round tri-leader in last year's Buffalo District Individual. He then followed that with a victory at the International Junior Golf Tour event at Heritage Hill in York, Pa., last fall.

Other local players who were near the top of the leader board included Matt Metzger of East Aurora (75), Andrew Romano of Depew (76), Greg Sibick of Williamsville (77), Bill Gaffney of Williamsville (78) and Desmond Stoll of Lockport (78).

e-mail: rmarfurt@buffnews.com