Down the Fairway: Steady Pratico leads Schenectady Classic

Paul Pratico tees off on the fourth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course on Saturday during the second round of the Schenectady Classic.
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Paul Pratico tees off on the fourth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course on Saturday during the second round of the Schenectady Classic.

A microcosm of Paul Pratico’s long, successful playing career could be found in Saturday’s second round of the Schenectady Classic at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

The 60-year-old, seven-time champion of this event registered one of his trademark performances with 17 steady pars and an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 1-under-par 71 that gave him a one-shot lead over 34-year-old Griffith Hunter (72-144) and a two-shot advantage over eight-time champion Jim Mueller (72-145) and 23-year-old Kyle Adams (70-145) heading into Sunday’s final round.

Brandon Haase recorded the tournament’s second hole-in-one with an ace on the 13th hole. Haase used an 8-iron for his memorable shot, and he admitted it was a bit of revenge after scoring a triple-bogey 6 on that same hole the day before. It was his second career hole-in-one.

Meanwhile, 60-year-old Laura Couch won the Schenectady Women’s Classic with an outstanding even-par 72 in the final round for a two-day total of 154, two shots ahead of 18-year-old Scotia-Glenville High School product Grace Kochan, who had a 75 in the final round and also took low net honors with a 140.

SOLID AGAIN

Pratico, a former pro who has a NYS Senior Amateur title and four Schenectady Senior Classic championships under his belt, only missed four greens all day, including a nice up-and-down from the left-side bunker on the third hole. He has a two-day total of 1-under-par 143.

“I was steady today. I kind of surprised myself, because I haven’t played much competitive golf,” Pratico said. “My swing felt good today.”

Hunter used his driver sparingly, including driving the green on the opening hole to set up a birdie en route to his second consecutive even-par 72. He also birdied the fifth, 10th, 12th and 13th holes but lamented a double-bogey on the par-5 14th.

“I don’t have to use my driver here much,” Hunter said, “I use my 2-iron to keep it in play. “It was fun for a little while out there. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. There’s still more golf to play out there. I’m going to keep rocking.”

Adams, a College of Saint Rose graduate who plays out of The Edison Club, birdied the second, sixth, ninth, 10th, 14th and 16th holes on the way to a 2-under-par 70, tied for the lowest round of the tournament so far. But, he bogeyed four holes on the back nine.

“I’ve got to finish off my rounds better. I hit the ball pretty good, and I’m starting to putt better now,” Adams said. “My driver was feeling good today. There definitely were some nerves down the stretch, but I’m hitting it decently, and how I do [today] all depends on my putter.”

Mueller, who has eight Schenectady Classic titles and five Schenectady Senior titles, shot a solid 72 Saturday to contend for another victory. He had four birdies. 

“I hit it a lot better than I did [in the first round], but my short-game, especially my pitching, was horrible,” he said.  “I’m a little surprised that I’m sitting where I am right now, but I’ll take it.”

Greg Stopera of The Edison Club eagled the 16th hole en route to his 70 to tie Adams for the tournament’s low round. Twenty-one players made the cut at 9-over-par 153.

COUCH ON FIRE

Couch, who gave a lot of credit to Mohawk Golf Club head pro Jeremy Kerr for lessons to sharpen her game, was ecstatic with her career-low round of even-par.

“This is my first time playing in this tournament,” she said, “I am so happy. Everybody I played with was so nice. This is a very special event for me.”

Couch has won several Mohawk Golf Club women’s club championships as well as numerous partners events over the years. She’s been a member at Mohawk GC for 16 years. The previous low score for the 9-handicapper was a 74.

Kochan, formerly of The Edison Club, originally played on the boys’ golf team at Scotia-Glenville and made the sectionals three times before the girls’ sectional tournament was introduced. She then made the girls’ state team but couldn’t play because the event was canceled because of the pandemic.

“This was a great tournament for me,” she said. “It feels great. My previous best score in a tournament was 79 at Orchard Creek.”

RESULTS

(Par 72-144)

SCHENECTADY CLASSIC

Made the cut – Paul Pratico 71-143, Griffith Hunter 72-144, Kyle Adams 70-145, Jim Mueller 72-145, Lance Hope 75-147, Mike Stopera 74-148, Greg Stopera 70-148, Dan Russo 75-149, Connor Adams 73-149, Clint Lange 74-149, Jim Welch 75-150, Ben Bates 72-150, Rob Bigley 75-150, Joe Fitzsimmons 76-151, Mike Wheeler 77-151, Alex Olbrych 74-151, Mark Chylinski 79-151, Joe Marro 74-152, Tom McGinn 77-152, Nick Braman 75-153, Richard Duff 79-153.

Other scores – Todd Czepiel 81-154, Kevin Broderick 77-154, Aaron Simone 80-154, Chad Stoffer 80-155, Tim Flanigan 82-155, Dan Williams 78-156, Chris Gilbert 78-157, Pete Lindner 82-158, Jay Taub 80-158, Greg Bennett 79-158, Bob Cooper 80-158, Jason Hoch 82-159, Travis Koch 86-160, Jim Toomey 80-160, Tom Salmon 80-161, Tim Bean  78-161, Kevin Dwyer 80-161, Brandon Haase 79-161, Mario Marino 80-162, Michael Dwyer 80-162, Tom Gatta 81-162, Jerry Brescia 84-163, Michael Kelly 82-163, Tismark Boham 79-163, Andy Bennett 81-163, Nick Tellone 79-164, Mike LeClair 84-165, Chris DiCocco 81-166, Patrick Woodfield 87-167, David Smith 79-167, Dan Giovannangelo 82-167, Kevin McGinn 80-167, Jim Fazio 77-167, Ron Cohen 82-168, David Alsdorf 79-168, Jeff Barringer 82-169, Matthew Wilgocki 83-169, Matthew Rentz 90-170, Connor Desjardins 80-170, Calvin Kroll 81-171, David Mooradian 86-171, Woody Winslow 86-172, Carl Gilbert 92-174, David Mooradian Jr. 86-174, Greg Peterson 87-175, Mike Lor 87-175, Chris Pierpont 90-176, Chris Dobson 85-176, Craig Schoonmaker 86-176, Peter Davis 91-179, Mark Compton 84-181, David Bintz 94-183, Bob Muro 95-184, Jonathan Albrecht 89-185, Greg Hilts 98-195.

SCHENECTADY WOMEN’S CLASSIC

Laura Couch 72-154, Grace Kochan 75-156, Rachel Barlette 76-159, Mary Diefendorf 83-159, Nancy Kroll 84-165, Kathy Canestrini 85-166, Anne Poulin 83-168, Debra DiMaggio 84-172, Cindy LaFleur 89-172, Joann Pappas 90-174, Kelly McKenna 95-176, Noreen Leonard 89-178, Sharon Pike 87-181, Ann Capobianco 90-181, Christine Guidarelli 92-183, Kim Scheuer 95-184, Rosebud DiGesare 91-185, Sandra Weckter 95-186, Sandy Morley 93-186, Sue Mooradian 97-187, Jamie Hall 96-191, Bonnie St. Denis 98-195, Betsy Baker 92-196 Mary Hettie 99-198, Carol Aiello 101-202, Liz SantaBarbara 103-205, Anne Noonan 106-205, Michele Ryan 102-211, Debra Hinden 109-211.

Net leaders – Grace Kochan 140, Mary Diefendorf 143, Noreen Leonard 146.

ANOTHER STREAK FOR BERLINER

Hadley-Luzerne High School graduate Scott Berliner bounced back from seeing his amazing 10-year winning streak snapped in the Northeastern New York PGA Stroke Play Championship last month at the Country Club of Troy by winning his sixth straight Donald Ross Classic Sunday and Monday at The Sagamore Resort and Glens Falls Country Club, respectively.

Berliner, 46, was 3-over-par at The Sagamore Resort, but he fired a 3-under-par 68 at Glens Falls Country Club, including three birdies without a bogey on the back nine, to keep this particular winning streak alive in one of the section’s major events. Berliner, who hit the flag with a short pitch shot to set up a tap-in birdie on the par-5 16th hole in the final round, also has captured the last 10 NENY PGA Player of the Year awards.

“The section championship is the biggest one for me, obviously, but this one is pretty cool, too,” said the assistant pro at Saratoga Spa Golf Course. “It’s definitely an advantage for me here that I hit it relatively far and relatively high. Softer conditions are typically better for me,” he said, referring to the rainstorm that caused a couple of delays in the final round. “You can be more aggressive when it’s soft. And when I’m hitting it well, my distance control is pretty good.”

Berliner, who started but had to pull out of last week’s sectional qualifier for the U.S. Open because of a sore back, said he loves playing at Glens Falls CC.

“I’m pretty comfortable here,” he said. “I have some special ties, growing up 20 minutes from here and having my former high school golf coach as a member here. She’s passed away, and her son, who I played a lot of golf here with, also passed away a few years ago in Colorado. Plus, I know Mr. Haggerty [head pro Tom Haggerty] forever. I’m very comfortable at this place. Any time I have a chance to play here, I take it.”

Berliner won his 28th NENY PGA major championship. He earned $1,650 for the Donald Ross triumph.

Saratoga National GC assistant pro Bob Cain, a Catholic Central and College of Saint Rose graduate, finished second at 4-over-par for the tournament, including a 1-under-par 70 in the final round. He earned $1,300.

“It’s always tough trying to catch Scotty when he’s out in front,” Cain said. “I don’t play a lot. I’m happy to be out there and competing. I teach a lot. I love to do that. Whenever I can get out and play and get my competitive juices flowing, it’s pretty good. This is only my sixth time playing all year. I pretty much show up at these tournaments and play. My style of golf is the kind where I don’t have to practice a lot and my game can still be reasonable. 

“If I can find my tee ball, I’m OK,” he said. “I stuck a couple of wedges today. I got to play with Scotty yesterday, and he didn’t have his best stuff. Today is the Scotty we all know.”

Rob Shuey, formerly of Oneonta CC, was third at 6-over-par, followed by Normanside CC assistant Justin Hearley (9-over-par) and Kyle Kressler of Clear View CC (9-over-par). Mohawk Golf Club’s Rick Wolcott won the Legends Division and earned $900.

TROY INVY RECAP

Former Siena College standout and current UConn junior Jared Nelson captured his second straight Troy Invitational crown at the 78th edition of this major tournament last weekend at the Country Club of Troy.

Nelson shot 2-under-par 69 in the first round and then fired an even-par 71 in the final round for a two-day total of 140 to beat Ben Rublee of the host club (73-70) by three shots. Two-time winner Dan Russo, 63, of Schuyler Meadows was third (71-73-144) followed by first-round leader Jason Urschel of Shaker Ridge CC (68-77-145).

A year ago, Nelson was seven shots behind after the opening round and rallied to victory, but he was just one shot back going into the final round this year.

“I knew where I stood after the 15th hole,” Nelson said. “I love this place, and that’s part of the reason I came back. Actually, I wasn’t going to come back, but I struggled in a tournament last week and I wanted to get another tournament in. I have some bigger tournaments coming up in the next two weeks.”

The long-hitting Nelson began his college career at Siena. “I was looking to step up a bit to a little stronger competition,” he explained. “I love the coach [Steve Jensen] and I owe him a lot because I didn’t have a lot of offers coming out of high school. But I had a good freshman year and I wanted to see bigger schools week in and week out.”

This season, his UConn team won the Big East championship and competed in the NCAA regionals.

Nelson said he had a good game plan for the CC of Troy after coming into the tournament blind a year ago. 

“The key to scoring is that for me I have a lot of wedges, and I hit my wedges well,” he said. “They have the pins in some gullies and valleys, so leaving your approach shots in the proper spots is important. You also have to be short of the hole or to the left or to the right sometimes or you’re in trouble. I had a rough time in my first round last year, but I figured it out pretty quickly.”

Nelson said he had to gear down his tee shots on many of the shorter par-4s at the CC of Troy. “You have to leave yourself some good numbers, so you have to pick and choose when to hit the driver,” he said.

Russo, always in contention at this event, lost his momentum with a double bogey on the severely downhill ninth hole. 

“The first six holes were great, but the next six holes I played like a 10-year-old,” Russo said. “Believe me, I’m going to figure it out. The seventh, eighth and ninth holes for me were awful. I was right in the middle of the fairway on all three holes and in good position for birdies, but I made some terrible shots.”

Kevin Cassidy won the Senior Flight, while David Mooradian Jr. captured the Junior Flight.

CHIP SHOTS

Kennedy Swedick of Albany, the Albany Academy student who became the first Section II girls’ individual champion in 2019, picked up another resume stuffer when she qualified for the U.S. Girls Junior Championship by shooting 2-over-par 74 in the local qualifier at Yahundasis Golf Club Monday in New Hartford. Swedick, who earned a sponsor’s exemption into the Symetra Tour’s Twin Bridges Championship next month at Pinehaven CC, advances to the U.S. Girls Junior Championship at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland July 12-17.

Meanwhile, Clarkie Carroll of Saratoga Springs earned the second alternate spot at the boys’ local qualifier, also at Yahnundasis Golf Club. If Carroll gets in after his even-par 72 at the qualifier, he’ll play July 19-24 at the U.S. Junior Amateur at Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, North Carolina July 19-24.

Two-time defending champions Nicholas Braman and Madison Braman, cousins, shot a 3-under-par 69 to finish third at the NYS Amateur Mixed Team Championship at Brook-Lea Country Club. Mary Jo Kelly and Ray Kelly of Wolferts Roost CC finished sixth in the senior division with a 74.

The Saratoga County Amateur Championship is slated for Friday and Saturday at Eagle Crest Golf Club and McGregor Links CC, respectively.

Local club pros compete in the Ellis Hospital Pro-Am Monday at Saratoga National Golf Club.

The NYS Women’s Amateur Championships are slated for June 28-29 at Teugega CC. 

HOLES-IN-ONE

Bryan Shanklin collected his second career hole-in-one with an ace on the 143-yards ninth hole with a 9-iron at Pinehaven Country Club.

At Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, Ricky Alvarez aced the sixth hole.

Howard Edelman recorded a hole-in-one on the 15th hole at Mohawk Golf Club.

EAGLES

Mike Jurcsak eagled the par-5 third hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.

Also at Amsterdam Municipal, Shawn Jablonski eagled the 10th hole.

Bob Jiampetti eagled the par-5 third hole at Ballston Spa Country Club.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

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