Pratico captures seventh Schenectady Classic title

Fires 31 on back nine to win by six
Paul Pratico (left) gets a high-five from Lance Hope during the final round of the Schenectady Classic Sunday.
Paul Pratico (left) gets a high-five from Lance Hope during the final round of the Schenectady Classic Sunday.

SCHENECTADY — After suffering his third consecutive bogey on the par-4 fifth hole, where both of his playing partners also bogeyed, Paul Pratico turned to his lead group and told them it looked like that trio had let the rest of the field back into the tournament.

Apparently, Pratico’s assessment was a bit pre­mature.

The 57-year-old former pro snapped out of his doldrums with a birdie on the ninth hole and then shot a blistering 31 on the back nine en route to a 3-under-par 69 Sunday in the final round of the annual Daily Gazette-sponsored Schenec­tady Classic at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Pratico finished the three-day tournament with a 4-under-par 212 to win by six shots over first-round leader Jim Welch of Olde Kinderhook (74-218).
It was Pratico’s seventh Schenectady Classic title. Tied for third were eight-time and defending champion Jim Mueller (73-220), Lance Hope (76-220), who finished second in a playoff the last two years, and Mark Chylinski (73-220).

“I putted great on the back nine,” Pratico said. “Winning my seventh title is special, because I’m trying to catch im [Mueller]. That back nine has been fantastic for me this week. I had a 35 on Friday, a 34 on Saturday and a 31 today. That 31 is the lowest nine-hole total I’ve ever posted in a tournament.”

Pratico began the day with a one-stroke lead over Hope and Welch, but he couldn’t get his putter to cooperate. He missed a short, hard-breaking par putt on the tough par-3 third hole and then pushed his next tee shot into the high grass in the right rough, eventually leading to another bogey. 

“That fourth hole has been tough on me all week,” Pratico noted. “I was 4-over-par on that hole this week.”

When Pratico’s approach shot hit a tree branch on the fifth hole, it led to his third consecutive bogey, and his frustrations grew. 

“But I think my pars on the sixth and seventh holes were key, because I started to get the right feel of the greens with my putter,” he said. “Then I made a good par putt on No. 8 before that birdie on the ninth hole.”

Pratico’s putter was on fire on the back nine, especially from long range. He rolled in a 36-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole, a 13-footer for birdie on the par-5 12th hole, a 15-footer for bird on the par-3 13th hole and a 40-footer on the par-5 14th. He made an excellent two-putt par from long range on the par-3 15th hole, and his 10-foot birdie try on the par-5 16th hole just missed.

All three playing partners birdied the 17th hole from inside 10 feet, and Pratico’s birdie attempt on the 18th hole rolled over a piece of the cup.
Pratico’s trophy case got a little more crowded. The former New York State Senior Amateur titlist also has four Schenectady Senior Classic crowns, including last year’s event.

Welch, 50, who opened the tournament with a 68, didn’t have his best ball-striking day but was still right in the thick of the tournament until he suffered consecutive bogeys on the 13th, 14th and 15th holes. He regrouped with birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.

“I didn’t strike it well today,” said the former NYS Mid-Amateur champion who is also a three-time Troy Invitational winner. He’ll play in that event again this weekend. “Being 1-over-par through 12 is more than I deserved. He [Pratico] won the tournament. He deserved it. I think I lost a little focus when I made those three bogeys in a row. When you know you’re not in it any more, sometimes you lose a little of the edge.”

Pratico had the only sub-par round of the day. Former champion Ben Bates and Kyle Adams shot even-par 72.

(Par 72-216)

Paul Pratico 69-212, Jim Welch 74-218, Lance Hope 76-220, Mark Chylinski 73-220, Jim Mueller 73-220, Joe Fitzsimmons 76-221, Ben Bates 72-222, Greg Stopera 74-224, Kyle Adams 72-224, Tom Salmon 74-225, Todd Czepiel 78-225, Chad Stoffer 76-226, Rob Bigley Jr. 75-226, Gerry Brescia 81-227, Mike Dwyer 76-228, Mike Wheeler 74-228, Chris Gilbert 73-228, Connor Adams 74-229, Kevin Broderick 81-229, Joe Cimmino 79-230, Mike Stopera 79-232, Bob Cooper 75-232, Peter Lindner 78-232, Tony Cristello 78-233, Alex Olrych 77-234, Aaron Simone 78-235, Glenn Stopera 82-236, Jim Grady 81-237, Paul Hart 83-240, Jay Taub 84-241.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.

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