Jim Gardy had a simple plan for success: Hit it straight, and putt it even straighter.
On a day when most of the field struggled, the 51-year-old Gardy got into the zone early and stayed there, firing a sizzling five-under-par 67 to grab a six-shot lead after the first round of the Gazette Senior County Amateur Thursday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Tied for second with a 73 were senior “rookie” Keith Gillespie of Saratoga National and left-hander Glenn Stopera, who plays out of Amsterdam Municipal. Another shot back were defending champion Tony Cristello of Pinehaven Country Club, five-time County Am champ Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek, three-time County Am champion Bill Frutchy of The Edison Club, three-time Senior County Am winner Al Nebolini of The Edison Club, Mike Mina of Shaker Ridge Country Club, long-hitting Chris Cross, Dan Conway, Jay Taub, Bill Thiel, Larry Edwards and Peter DiSimone, all from Muny, and left-hander Jack Stopera from Shaker Ridge CC.
Thirty-five players made the cut at 78 or better.
DiSimone tied with three others for the overall net honors with a 65, but won on a matching of cards. Al Cromer was the 50-59 net champion, Thiel took the 60-69 net title and Claude Venditti won the 70-plus net crown.
Although not necessarily known as an extremely long hitter, Gardy dominated the par-5s.
“I tore apart the par-5s today,” said Gardy, who plays out of the Town of Colonie Golf Course. “It was all about fairways and greens today. I think I missed only three greens all day, and the fairways I missed were only by a couple of feet. I kept it straight, and I putted amazingly well.”
Gardy eagled the second hole by knocking in a 15-footer from just a foot off the green. He knocked in a 20-foot birdie on the eighth hole and converted a three-footer for birdie on the 12th. Gardy drained a 25-foot bomb for birdie on the 14th, and then completed his birdie spree with a two-footer on the 16th hole.
“I got it to six-under at one point, but I bogeyed the fifth hole,” said the postal worker. “I was in perfect position to the right-center of the fairway, and I only had a sand wedge to the green. But I opened up the wedge a little, and I ended up hitting a tree. I failed to get up and down.
“I was surprised the scores weren’t much lower than they were,” he said. “The greens were receptive, and the course was in excellent shape. I figured I’d be in the last group, but I didn’t know I would be leading.”
Gardy said this is his best-ever round in County Amateur competition. He failed to make the cut in his Senior County Am debut last year, but he once shot a 68 in the regular County Am.
“I haven’t really won much, as far as tournaments go,” he said. “I did win the Town of Colonie club championship before I moved to Niskayuna, but that’s about it.”
Glenn Stopera, who has been sharp recently in league play at Amsterdam Muny, birdied the second hole and chipped in for birdie on the 10th hole.
“I made a lot of pars. I didn’t really hit the ball that well, but my short game was good. I got up and down a lot,” he said.
Gillespie was playing in his first County Am tournament in more than a decade. He and Dan Russo dominated the Mohawk Member-Guest in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The two groups that started the day on the first hole in the shotgun format have accounted for 28 County Amateur championships, but all eight players struggled.
Cristello had a solid ball-striking round, but his putter let him down. He birdied the 13th and 16th holes.
“I hit a lot of greens, but I didn’t make anything,” he said. “I hit 14 greens. Some days, the putts go in, and some days, they don’t.”
Mueller, considered one of the favorites, made the turn at two-under-par, but he struggled on the back. He missed short par putts on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes.
Mina’s round was helped by a chip-in for eagle on the 16th hole.
Jim Gardy 67, Glenn Stopera 73, Keith Gillespie 73, Tony Cristello 74, Jim Mueller 74, Al Nebolini 74, Bil Frutchy 74, Mike Mina 74, Chris Cross 74, Dan Conway 74, Jay Taub 74, Larry Edwards 74, Pete DiSimone 74, Bill Thiel 74, Jack Stopera 74, Tom Gatta 75, Mario Marino 75, Don Bibby 75, Peter Davis 75, Woody Winslow 75, Bill Moll 76, Angelo Menagias 76, Dave Sutphen 76, Mike Pollock 76, Don Blaha 77, Dave Billman 77, Jim Reid 77, Joe Monteparo 77, Armand Amedore 77, Al Cromer 77, Joe Cebula 77, Neil Golub 78, Joe Daley 78, Carl Gilbert 78, Bob Smith 78, John Simons 78, John Reagan 79, Harry Morgan 79, Toby Harding 79, Tom Nasadoski 79, Mike Daley 79, Joe Romeo 79, Bob Omerud 79, Kenny Hall 80, Jim Fazio 80, Frank Salamone 80, Peter Andrikopoulos 80, Dave Hillier 80, John Burns 80, Mike Bayus 81, Al Massaroni 81, Frank DeGraw 81, Bill Park 82, Jim Follain 83, Ed Rufer 83, Claude Venditti 83, Gary Krezmier 84, Dave Leichenauer 84, Anthony Costello 84, Mike Lucey 85, Joe Druzba 85, Bill Young 85, Bob Verhayden 85, Tom Catambone 86, Jim Bordis 87, Tom Mayer 87, Rick Gross 88, Tom Higgins 88, Greg Russell 88, Jerry Enders 88, John Havlik 88, Don Gross 89, Pete Drechsler 89, Bill Litts 90, Bill Perry 92, Mark Gwiazdowski 93, Doug Sager 94, John Weldon 102, Bob Berrian WD.
Net leaders: DiSimone 65 (overall leader), Cromer 65 (50-59 leader), Thiel 65 (60-69 leader), Venditti 65 (70-plus leader).
6:45 — Gilbert, Simons, Daley, Goub.
6:53 — Smith, Cromer, Reid, Blaha.
7:01 — Billman, Monteparo, Amedore.
7:09 — Cebula, Sutphen, Pollock.
7:17 — Moll, Gatta, Marino.
7:25 — Davis, Bibby Winslow.
7:33 — Conway, Taub, Edwards.
7:41 — Frutchy, Mina, J. Stopera.
7:49 — DiSimone, Thiel, Cross.
7:57 — Nebolini, Mueller, Cristello.
8:05 — G. Stopera, Gillespie, Gardy.
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