Defending County Am champion Pratico ready for wet course

Rainy weather and sloppy cond­itions could play a huge role in this weekend’s Gazette County Amat­eu

Rainy weather and sloppy cond­itions could play a huge role in this weekend’s Gazette County Amat­eur Golf Championship, which tees off this morning at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

The weathermen are predicting a chance for rain on all three days of the competition, although today’s opening round should be playable for the field of 105. Only the top 40 and ties advance to the second round, and Sunday’s final round will include just the low 20 and ties.

Defending champion Paul Pratico is preparing for a soggy three rounds, and he’s hoping an injury to his left wrist won’t slow him down.

“We will have to wait and see how things go, and keep an eye on the weather,” said the 48-year-old Pratico, one of three five-time champions of this event. Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek and Pinehaven Country Club course superintendent Rob Bigley are the other two five-time winners.

“The key is you have to play a little slower, and be more prepared in the wet weather,” said Pratico. “You need to bring enough towels and other stuff like extra gloves and an umbrella. You need to keep your clubs and your hands dry. You need to hold on to the club at all costs. There will be some squirters out there, and you’ll get more bad breaks than good ones.

“The problem with the kind of weather we’re expecting is that you’ve got to deal with so much extra stuff. You’ve got your umbrella and your towels. There is more work to do in order to stay dry, and you will be more drained than you are on a normal day.

Everybody will be facing the same situation, though, and everybody will just have to struggle through it. It would be great to have a caddy in weather like this, although that’s not an option for everybody. I’ll try to pull my own bag in the first round, and maybe I can scrape up somebody to help me out on the weekend.”

Pratico, a former pro who is one of the more patient players in the field, said that the rain this weekend will make the course play longer. Usually, that would help the longer hitters in the field, but not necessarily.

“I think the key will be the air temperature and how much clothing you have to wear. You can’t take a big swing if you have a lot of extra clothing on,” he said. “It might affect the younger guys with big swings, especially if they hit it a ton. They might not be able to hit it as hard. For me, I don’t swing at it that hard. My swing won’t be affected as much. I won’t carry it as long as the younger guys will. My ball will carry and stop without much roll, but the good thing is that the greens will hold. You can throw it at the pin.

“The speeds on the greens will be down. Hopefully, they will be able to cut them, but with all this rain, you probably won’t be able to get the big mower on them, and they might have to cut the greens by hand. Another key is to keep the ball in play. In order to be able to place the ball with winter rules, you must be in the fairway.”

Pratico has been one of the most consistent threats in County Amat­eur history. He won his first County Am at age 17. He played professionally for 15 years, but once he got his amateur status back, he won four times since 1998.

“I would say I’m about 85 to 90 percent now in terms of my health,” he said. “I hurt my left wrist in early April, and it limited me from playing at all until about a week and a half ago. I’ve been going through physical therapy to strengthen my hand and wrist. I’ve got to be careful not to take any deep divots. I could reinjure myself. I’ll be caut­ious. That’s why I stayed out of competition. I passed on playing the Haggerty Two-Man so I would be ready for this.”

Pratico said that even though his doctor finally gave him the OK to play this weekend, he would have probably played anyway.

“It’s my favorite tournament, and I enjoy it. I’ve got to be in this tournament,” he said. “I’ll try to choke down on the club and hit it cleaner with my irons. I don’t think the injury should affect me too much. But by being out so long, I’m not used to the speed of the greens. Once I get used to the speed again, I’ll be fine.”

Pratico will be one of eight former champions in the field along with Mueller, three-time winners Bill Frutchy, Mike Bayus, Bill Moll and Ed Chylinski, and two-time winners Bob Cooper and Rob Bigley Jr.

Gazette Senior County Amateur champions Neil Golub, Al Nebolini and Tony Cristello should also be competitive, along with tourn­ament veterans Jack Stopera, Bill Sweet, Chris Comi, Chad Stoffer and Brandon Haase.

There are also plenty of younger, low-handicap players in the field who are waiting for a breakthrough. They include Chris and Bryan Barach of Mohawk, Chris Driscoll, Nick Longo, Seth Adams, John Mendrysa, Brendan Jeffes and Ben Bates.


7:00 — Robby Bigley Jr., Todd Czepiel, Tony Cristello, Matt Panneton.

7:10 — Mario Marino, Angelo Menagias, Peter Andrikopoulos, Mike Pollock.

7:20 — Neil Golub, Al Nebolini, Jack Stopera, Bill Sweet.

7:30 — Ben Bates, Jerry Brescia, Chris Driscoll, Nick Longo.

7:40 — Chris Comi, Mike Mina, Brandon Haase, Greg Stopera.

7:50 — Brendan Jeffes, Seth Adams, John Mendrysa, Dave Nicholson.

8:00 — Paul Pratico, Jim Mueller, Ed Chylinski, Bob Cooper.

8:10 — Bill Moll, Bill Frutchy, Mike Bayus, Don Blaha.

8:20 — Harry Morgan, Chris Cross, Dave Sutphen, Jim Gardy.

8:30 — Jay Taub, Chris Fatone, Dan Conway, Pete Davis.

8:40 — Fred Mullins, Frank Salamone, Mike Drake, Jim Fazio.

8:50 — Ed Minkiewicz, Larry Edwards, Chris Gilbert, Carl Gilbert.

9:00 — Bill Mallia, Andy Bennett, Kenny Hall, Mike DeBrino.

9:10 — Don Gross, Woody Winslow, Craig Schoonmaker, Lance Hope.

9:30 — Charles Harding, Jeremy Youngs, Don Mennillo Jr., Todd Trepess.

9:40 — Bob Dufort, Josh Powers, Luke Westfall, Glenn Stopera.

9:50 — John Cimmino, Walter Sparks, Joe Cimmino, Rit Cimmino.

10:00 — Jordan Kulbako, Freddie Luna, Brandon Cristello, Frank Renna.

10:10 — Alex Olbrych, Chris Pierpont, Brent Livingston, David Brown.

10:20 — Bob Alheim, Kevin Halburian, Andy Shapiro, Frank DeGraw.

10:30 — Dave DeMarco, Mike Martin, Robert Wilson, Robbie Heis.

10:40 — Ross Lackey, Kevin Betzwieser, Joe Watroba.

10:50 — Dave Leichenauer, Jeff Crandall, Justin Mara.

11:00 — Chris Carroll, Paul Slagen, Mike Polsinelli.

11:10 — Al Cromer, Mike DiGiloramo, Alan Boulant, Joe Druzba.

11:50 — Darren Hart, Mike Stopera, Paul Carnivale, Mike Daley.

12:00 — Chris Barach, Bryan Barach, Chad Stoffer, Joe Plantz.

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