Pratico focuses on County Am

Paul Pratico plays in few tournaments, but puts his focus on the Gazette County Amateur Championship

Paul Pratico is the ultimate grinder.

He doesn’t hit the ball as long as the youngsters, and he’s not flashy. But the 47-year-old former pro is the kind of player who seldom makes major mistakes, especially in the Gazette County Amateur Golf Championship.

Pratico, a four-time champion, will be one of the players to keep an eye on today when the annual three-day event tees off at Schen­ectady Municipal Golf Course at 6:45 a.m.

This field is loaded. Not only are there 10 former champions with 31 titles to their credit, but there are also plenty of talented young guns who may be ready to take the next step.

One of the amazing things about Pratico is that he doesn’t play very often. In fact, the Gazette County Am is usually the highlight of his schedule.

“I pick and choose where I play,” he said. “I have family obligations, and with the economy the way it is, it wouldn’t benefit me to spend a lot of money playing in the Tri-County events or the invitationals.”

The only other major event Pratico plans on participating in is the New York State Amateur, to be held July 15-19 at Pinehaven Country Club.

It’s not easy keeping your competitive edge when you don’t play much tournament golf.

“Certainly, when you get into a tournament, it’s a lot different then when you’re just out playing for fun. The putts mean something in a tournament,” he said.

“But what I try to do coming into a tournament like this is to really cram a lot of practice into the last few days. I feel pretty good about this weekend coming up, but there are still a few parts of my game that I wish I had more time work on. My chipping needs some work. If you miss greens, you’ve got to be able to get up and down.

“The good thing is that I’ve been putting very well lately. I’ve played a few different courses lately, and I’m seeing all the different speeds on the greens. Once I get the speed down, I should be fine.”

Pratico doesn’t mind if he gives up yardage to the big hitters.

“Technology has helped me a little to stay competitive. A lot of guys my age have found that out. The guys can still play pretty well into their last 40s.

“But one of the keys to my game is that I don’t overswing. I don’t jump at the ball. I just try to hit it square and on the face. I don’t try to keep up with the big hitters. Put it this way, when I was watching the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and that course was playing more than 7,600 yards. I would be in trouble on a course like that.”

If Pratico wins this weekend, he will join an exclusive club. Only Rob Bigley Sr. and Jim Mueller have won five County Am crowns. Pratico also has six runner-up finishes.

“I finished second a lot when the Bigley brothers started winning tournaments,” he said with a laugh. “I remember finishing second or third to Bob Cooper one year, and I also remember finishing second to Bill Moll.

“Looking at the paper, I see that it’s an extremely competitive field. It should be fun and competitive all weekend.”

Other former champions in the field besides Pratico, Bigley and Mueller are three-time champ­ions Mike Bayus, Ed Chylinski, Bill Frutchy and Moll, who also has five Senior County Am victories, plus Tom Cooper and two-time winners Rob Bigley Jr. and Bob Cooper.

Todd Czepiel is a first-time competitor with a 1 handicap. The assistant course superintendent at Shaker Ridge Country Club

recently moved to Niskayuna.

Among the young guns are Ben Bates, the former Skidmore College standout who has been dominating the Mohawk Member-Guest in recent years, and Chris and Bryan Barach.

There will be a cut to the low 40 and ties after today’s opening round, and to the low 20 and ties for Sunday’s final round. Only one tee will be used once again this year.


6:45 — Angelo Menagias, Mario Marino, Jack Stopera, Mike Mina.

6:55 — Brandon Haase, Ben Bates, Chris Barach, Bryan Barach.

7:05 — Bill Sweet, Jerry Brescia, Greg Stopera, Pete Davis.

7:15 — Neil Golub, Al Nebolini, Dave Sutphen, Harry Morgan.

7:25 — Chad Stoffer, Andy Bennett, John Reagan, Chris Driscoll.

7:35 — Jim Gardy, Jay Taub, David Alsdorf, Mike Stopera.

7:45 — Nick Longo, Matt Panneton, Jim Fazio, Glenn Stopera.

7:55 — Chris Gilbert, Carl Gilbert, Peter Korunkiewich, Bob Smith.

8:05 — Paul Pratico, Bob Cooper, Tom Salmoni, Bill Moll.

8:15 — Jim Mueller, Bill Frutchy, Mike Bayus, Ed Chylinski.

8:25 — Tony Cristello, Paul Chamberlain, Gary Neal, Branden Cristello.

8:35 — Walter Sparks, Ted Lewis, John Cimmino, Jonathan Lewis.

8:45 — Chris Carroll, Mike Polsinelli, Mike Daley, Paul Carnevale.

8:55 — Mike Salvatore, Dave Semione, Rob Naples, Joe DeLorenzo.

9:05 — Don Blaha, Kevin Halburian, Joe Romeo, Gary Galica.

9:15 — Mike Trunzo, Joe Plantz, Tom Gatta, Mike Pollock.

9:25 — Bill Litts, Dave Leichenauer, Andy Shapiro, Dave DeMarco.

9:35 — Dan Thomson, Chris Pierpont, Billy Vacca, Joe Cimmino.

9:45 — Dave Valentino, Dan Conway, Don Mennillo, Rit Cimmino.

9:55 — Chris Cross, Derek Demeo, Frank DeGraw, Joe Genevesi.

10:05 — Peter Andrikopoulos, Alex Olbrych, Luke Westfall, Craig Schoonmaker.

10:15 — Don Dobbs, Todd Trepess, Mike Martin, Jeremy Youngs.

10:25 — Brent Livingston, Will Atchinson, Larry Pisarski, Woody Winslow.

10:35 — Don Gross, Ed Fowler, Mike DiGiloramo, Frank Salamone.

10:45 — Bill Beach, Terry O’Brien, Dave Teller, Lance Hope.

11:05 — Calvin Kroll, Tom Christoffel, Tony Duff, Dan Giovannangelo.

11:15 — Robert Wilson, Robert Berrian, Jordan Kulbako, Joe Druzba.

11:25 — Freddy Luna, Mike Pigliavento, Richie Regel, Dave Dussault.

12:15 — Chris Fatone, Darren Hart, Fred Mullins, John Mendrysa.

12:30 — Robby Bigley Jr., Rob Bigley Sr., Todd Czepiel, Tim Farrara.

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