Pratico closes with 69, wins fifth title

Paul Pratico had a goal: win his fifth Gazette Men’s County Amateur golf championship title before
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Paul Pratico had a goal: win his fifth

Gazette Men’s County Amateur golf championship title before the young kids begin dominating the tournament.

On a perfect Sunday afternoon to play golf, Pratico accomplished his goal.

Pratico made a key birdie on the par-5, 500-yard 16th hole to take a one-shot lead, and went on to win his fifth Gazette Men’s County Amateur title at Schenectady

Municipal Golf Course.

Pratico, who started the day one shot behind leader Jim Mueller, fired a three-under-par 69 to finish at six-under-par 210. He won by two shots over Mueller and Robby Bigley Jr. Bigley also had a 69. while Mueller finished with an even-par 72.

Pratico joins Mueller and Rob Bigley Sr. as five-time tournament champions. It is Pratico’s first title since 2005.

“There was a goal, to get to five,” Pratico said. “Five is nice because Robby Bigley Sr. has five, and Jim had five. There was a plateau there. I want to win as many as I can before I get too old.”

Pratico and Mueller were tied at four-under heading into the 16th. Mueller pushed his tee shot to the right and behind a tree. Despite hitting some leaves, Mueller was able to get his second shot into the fairway, and then put his third shot onto the green.

Meanwhile, Pratico was in the rough, but had a good lie. He crushed his second shot to within 15 feet of the hole, giving him an eagle opportunity.

“That was probably my best shot of the tournament,” Pratico said. “I put the hybrid on. I gave myself a good birdie run at the eagle.”

Pratico’s eagle putt fell a couple of feet short of dropping in the hole, and he tapped in for birdie.

Mueller was short on his uphill birdie putt, and had to settle for par.

“I thought I hit a pretty decent shot to the green,” said Mueller, who closed Saturday’s round with three straight birdies. “It wasn’t close enough.”

The tournament was effectively over after the 176-yard, par-3 17th. Pratico put his tee shot onto the green, while Mueller’s shot when left to the edge of the cart path.

“I’d like to tell you what happened, but I don’t have a clue,” Mueller said. “I was trying to hit a knock-down shot. I kind of stopped and turned the club over, and pulled it way left. I was standing over it because [I was] feeling really good because I had been hitting my irons real good after I righted the ship after five.”

Pratico got his par. Mueller’s chip rolled past the hole and stopped on the fringe. Two putts later, Mueller was two behind with one hole left.

“That’s an impossible up-and-down from over there,” Mueller said.

Pratico sealed the win with a par putt on the 420-yard, par-4 18th.

“There was a little more comfort zone [heading into No. 18],” Pratico said. “But you can always go bogey-birdie, and then you have a playoff. You’ve still got to stay on top of your game.”

Bigley Jr. pulled to within one of Pratico and Mueller after getting a birdie on the 575-yard, par-5 14th hole. But a bogey on the 215-yard, par-3 15th hole put him two strokes behind.

“I was feeling good,” Bigley Jr. said. “I was three-under at the time on the back. But [Pratico] played well. He made no mistakes coming in.”

Chad Stoffer finished fourth at one-under-par 215. Chris Cross and Tom Salmon tied for fifth at one-over-par 217.

SCORES

(Par 72-72-72—214)

Paul Pratico 70-71-69—210

Jim Mueller 71-69-72—212

Robby Bigley Jr. 73-70-69—212

Chad Stoffer 71-74-70—215

Tom Salmon 73-70-74—217

Chris Cross 75-69-73—217

Ed Chylinski 70-76-74—220

Ben Bates 76-71-73—220

Chris Barach 75-73-73—221

Brandon Haase 75-73-73—221

Bryan Barach 71-77-74—222

Nick Longo 77-74-72—223

Jerry Brescia 73-75-76—224

Chris Driscoll 75-75-74—224

Bill Moll 74-76-74—224

Harry Morgan 74-74-77—225

Mike Pollock 74-74-77—225

Bob Cooper 78-73-74—225

Mike Bayus 76-75-75—226

Tony Cristello 76-75-75—226

Mike Trunzo 74-73-80—227

Jack Stopera 76-72-81—229

Bill Sweet 74-77-81—232

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