The 1998 champion fired a 3-under-par 67 Saturday at Kent State to thwart the 71-player field in the tournament's County Division. However, he finds defending champion Doug Hauenstein on his heels with a 1-under 69. They were on the only players in the three-division, 104-player tournament to break par.
Equaling par with 70s were Randy Dietz, the 1997 champion, and Mark Rado, runnerup to Dietz in the same event.
In the Senior Division, later finisher Nick Butcher played steady golf to post a 2-over 72 and grab a six-stroke margin over Bob Mishler, while Dean Cutlip and Rokki Rogan, two past tournament champions, shared the lead in the Open Division with 70s, one shot ahead of defending champion Dave Kondzich.
Schustrich started the match with birdie-par-birdie but then began to lag.
"I couldn't hit any greens and was 2-over at the turn," he said. But he eagled the 10th that jump-started him and pulled him even. He used a driver and a wedge from 100 yards out.
"I won the tournament at Sugar Bush three years ago but it's a nice course that makes you earn everything you get."
Hauenstein felt he could shoot a 66 going into the tournament, but said he did not drive the ball well.
"Although I putted consistently, I was lucky to get the 69. On No. 8, I almost hit two balls out of bounds. I hadn't played here for 25 years but I had a practice round here last week. And a bogey on a par five on the back nine didn't help."
Dietz, the former Kent Roosevelt and Kent State golfer, who was in the first group off the tee, squeezed out an even-par 70 despite a triple bogey on No. 10 and a bogey on No. 11.
"I started well and was 2-under on the front nine," he said. "I'm happy to be in the position I'm in. Sugar Bush is no problem for me."
Rado, the new golf coach at Garfield, sank a 20-foot putt for a birdie on No. 6 and another 20-foot birdie on No. 9. He also converted eight-footers for pars on 12 and 13 to stay in contention.
"I'm certainly looking forward to Sugar Bush," he noted.
Dan Metzendorf, a former Kent State player, shot a respectable 1-over-par 71 to stay in the running for the title, but two-time champion Butch Morrette managed only a 75 after an ailing back flared up on the last several holes.
"I can hardly swing," Morrette said. "I hope I can make it (today)."
Last minute entry Nick Butcher said, "I was hitting the ball well. I thought if I could keep it in play, I could shoot in the 70s. I hope the momentum carries over to (today)."
Butcher posted a front nine 1-under 32 with the help of a birdie on No. 5 (driver and wedge) and No. 8 with a 6-footer. He had a birdie and three bogeys on the back side.
Because three-time winner Denny Adkins wasn't entered, this division will crown a new champion, and Butcher is seeking his first title. Former champ, Noel Blankenship, is 10 shots back at 82.
There is a three-way duel with l999 winner, Rokki Rogan, and Dean Cutlip, going into today's final round with a one-stroke edge over last year's victor, George Kondzich.
Following the tournament, the annual awards of championship and runnerup trophies will be presented by the Record-Courier.
The final round begins at 9:36 a.m. with the County Division teeing off
first, following by the Open Division and finally the Senior