Tonawanda News — LEWISTON — Justin Shin seemed to come from out of nowhere in the opening round of the Porter Cup, getting six birdies and scoring a 29 in the back nine to help establish him as the early leader.
He almost couldn't come to the tournament at all, as the Hamilton, Ont. resident found himself stuck in border traffic on his way to Niagara Falls Country Club early Wednesday.
"Having a little trouble to cross the border because I had to stop there 40, 50 minutes," said Shin. "So even this morning I felt I was going to miss the tee time."
He made it before his scheduled 8:50 a.m. tee time, but had very little time to practice his putting or swings.
Why go through the trouble of commuting from Hamilton to Lewiston? It's because his parents traveled from South Korea and only get a limited time to share with their son.
"They want to watch me and I don't want to just stay by myself a whole week, because they only come for just a month," Shin said. "I want to spend some time with my family and so I tried to find a hotel but it's tough to find up here, so I actually decided to just go back and forth."
Two players tied for second place with scores of 65, or 5-under par: Tyler Dunlap of Trophy Club, Texas and Beau Hossler of Mission Viejo, California. Three more players tied for fourth place at 4-under, while five players shot an opening 2-under to find themselves tied in seventh place.
Long after Shin completed his round and headed off for some of that quality time with his parents, some of the pre-tournament favorites were heading in to finish their rounds.
With US Open low amateur player Michael Kim a late withdrawal from the Porter Cup, many eyes were focused on Kim's teammate at the University of California, 2013 NCAA champion Max Homa.
He birdied three times but also bogeyed three times to finish his opening round at 70, or even, and tied for 16th.
"It isn't the end of the world, I just enough close," said Homa. "In the morning it'll play a little easier so I think if I just keep doing what I'm doing and maybe just eliminate a couple of the bid misses I'll be all right."
Also finishing his opening round even was last year's Porter Cup winner Richy Werenski, who was asked if being the defending champion increased the pressure on him.
"Yeah, probably a little bit," he admitted. "I'm trying not to think about it too much, but I just know I'm playing pretty good. My game feels well, so there's definitely a chance."
Another of the early favorites, 2011 Porter Cup champion and last year's third-place finisher Patrick Rodgers, had a tougher first outing, shooting an opening round 73 that included three birdies but also four bogies and a double bogey on Hole 17.
"I was pretty bad all around today," said the Avon, Indiana native and junior at Stanford University. "It was for sure one of the worst rounds I've played in a while, so back to the drawing board a little bit. Hopefully three good rounds to finish the tournament.
"I don't feel like I'm far off, just nothing really went my way today."
The windy and cool conditions, along with some leftover moisture from the previous night's passing thunderstorm, added to the challenge for the first groups to tee off Wednesday morning.
It could have been much worse. Tournament director Steve Denn says the course was spared from serious damage from last Friday's heavy rain and Tuesday night's thunderstorm.
"Fortunately it didn't last too long but it dump a fair bit of water," said Denn. "But the course is in great shape. Honestly, this is year 13 for me, this is I think the best the course has looked for the Porter Cup.
"We had to pump a few bunkers this morning that flooded and don't have great drainage, but our grounds superintendent and his staff as always did a great job in preparing the course."
For Daniel Yustin of East Amherst, just being here was an exciting opportunity, even if he had to battle through some early cool winds and moisture. He had just missed making the Porter Cup in the qualifier. When others originally scheduled to play backed out, he was back in.
"The course dried up pretty good," said Yustin, who teed off in the first group at 8 a.m. Wednesday. "From the fairway I had to take casual water twice, but the course played really well."