Down the Fairway: Pratico is favorite to win Schenectady Senior Classic

Paul Pratico will be vying for his fifth Schenectady Senior Classic title Thursday and Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
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Paul Pratico will be vying for his fifth Schenectady Senior Classic title Thursday and Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Paul Pratico doesn’t hit the ball as far as he used to, and some of his other array of skills might have eroded just a tad, but the 60-year-old former pro still takes his game very seriously — especially when his favorite tournaments roll around at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

With a resume that includes a NYS Men’s Senior Amateur Golf Championship, eight Schenectady Classic titles, including one this summer at his advanced age, one Eagle Crest Shoot-Out victory and four Schenectady Senior Classic triumphs, there is no doubt of his legacy among the Capital Region’s elite players.

Pratico, who grew up near the 15th hole at Schenectady Muni, once again will be the favorite when the Schenectady Senior Classic, formerly the Gazette Senior County Amateur Championship, is contested Thursday and Friday. With a win, Pratico would tie friendly rival Jim Mueller, Bill Moll and Neil Golub for the most Schenectady Senior Classic crowns with five.

Many of Pratico’s perennial contenders in this event are playing in the NYS Senior Amateur Championship down in Newburgh. Although he would have loved to compete for another state title, he chose instead to remain close to home.

“I weighed the options and decided to play the Schenectady Senior and not travel. I don’t want to go through the hassle,” Pratico said. “I looked at the layout of the course [The Powelton Club], and I don’t know if it fits my game. Usually, the local people there show up and do well. I wish I could have done both tournaments, but I think I made the right decision, because I’m going to play in the regular NYS State Amateur in a couple of weeks [at Schuyler Meadows], and I don’t want to wear myself out.”

Pratico continues his practice regimen to keep his game sharp.

“From now until the tournament, I’ll hit a bucket a day and try to get a swing locked in,” he said. “Then, I spend about two hours chipping and putting. I chip a lot of balls from different distances, and then I stay another hour and do some putting. I work twice as much on my short game. It saves me a lot of shots, just as it did in the regular Schenectady Classic last month. I’ve also played a few practice rounds.”

Pratico needed his short game to hold off his much younger contenders in the Schenectady Classic, where birdies were tough to come by. He thinks his scoring opportunities will be a little easier this week.

“Now, we move up to the white tees. I’m sure I’ll hit a lot more greens,” he said.

Like all of us, Pratico has lost some length and flexibility over the years, but he works hard to overcome distance losses by playing smarter and remaining accurate with his short game.

“I’m 60 now, and from the age of 40 I’ve probably lost 20 yards with my tee shots,” he noted. “I haven’t lost as much with my irons. I never tried to hit them that far. But I’ve lost distance with my woods. I used to maybe average 280-285 yards with my driver, and now it’s more like 260-265 even though the club technology and the golf balls are better. I just keep losing clubhead speed. When I was working at Golf Galaxy, I had access to all of their equipment, and I noticed my clubhead speed kept diving. I used to be 110 mph, then 105, then 100. It wasn’t going in the right direction. I guess if I did some weight training I might get some speed back, but I don’t want to hurt myself working with weights.”

Pratico said he took some time off after winning the Schenectady Classic, and he feels fresh and ready to go.

“I’m pretty happy with myself this year winning the regular Classic at age 60. To be physically able to do that is a nice feeling. It’s also nice to keep adding titles,” he said. “If I get one, that’s great, but I’m just glad I can still physically play at this game. It’s getting harder now with our County Amateurs opening up to all the players in the Capital District. The competition is a lot harder and tougher, but that also makes it more fun when you win.”

Among Pratico’s toughest competition will be former champions Mike Carroll and Tony Cristello, along with regular title contenders Jay Taub, Neil Chambers and Paul Hart. There is also a strong group competing in the Super Senior division, including Don Blaha, Tony Delgado, Peter Andrikopoulos and Woody Winslow.

STRONG LOCAL GROUP FOR NYS SENIOR AMATEUR

The Capital Region will have a large and very strong contingent this week at the New York State Men’s Senior Amateur Championship, set for Tuesday through Thursday at the Powelton Club in Newburgh.

Former NYS Senior Amateur champion Dan Russo of Schuyler Meadows Club, the region’s all-time leader in major tournament victories, tops a list that includes two-time Schenectady Classic champion Bob Cooper of Schenectady Municipal, former NYS Mid-Amateur titlist and former CC of Troy standout Matt Clarke, who now plays out of Cazenovia Country Club; eight-time Schenectady Classic victor and five-time Schenectady Senior Classic winner Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek, 12-time Saratoga County Amateur senior division champion Bill Paulsen of Eagle Crest Golf Club and multiple Rensselaer County Amateur senior division titlist David Arakelian of the Country Club of Troy.

Other locals in the field are Joseph Parrottino of Albany Country Club, Mark Compton of Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, Kevin Broderick of Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, John Bogardus of McGregor Links CC, Bill Hogan, Gary Crucetti and Tim Flanigan of the NYSGA eclub-Capital District, James Leonard of Pinehaven CC, Kevin Goggins of The Edison Club, Wayne Mizerak of Burden Lake Country Club, Sal Romano of Eagle Crest Golf Club, Mark Chylinski of Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, Bill Kent of Cobleskill Golf & Country Club, Joe Delaney of Schuyler Meadows Club, Dan Ireland of the Country Club of Troy David Fizer of Ballston Spa Country Club and James McKillip of Town of Colonie Golf Course.

Competition will be divided into the NYS Senior Amateur for players 55 years of age and older, and the NYS Super Senior Amateur for players age 65 and older. There also will be age-group champions in the 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-774 and 75-plus age divisions.

CHIP SHOTS

Five-time Northeastern New York PGA Player of the Year Dal Daily, the head pro at Battenkill Country Club, won the NENY PGA’s Senior Professional Championship in a two-hole playoff over Rob Shuey of Oneonta Country Club after both players shot 1-over-par 145 over 36 holes Wednesday at The Edison Club. Both players qualified for the Senior PGA Professional Championship.

Schuyler Meadows Club assistant pro Michael Shine, a former Siena College standout and currently a volunteer coach for the Saints, shot a 4-under-par 66 to win the 86th Emerson Resort & Spa Woodstock Open Monday. The runner-up in two of the last three years, Shine earned $3,000.

Will Braxton of Saratoga Springs (73-79-152) and Nick Lyons of Albany Academy (71-81-152) tied for 1th at the 79th NYS Boys’ Junior Golf Championship at Seven Oaks Golf Club in Hamilton. Trey Smith of Greenville tied for 22nd with a 79-75-154. In the 64th NYS Boys 14-and-under Junior Golf Championship, Kieran Cummins of Shaker (75-77-152) tied for third and Brayden Dock of Glens Falls (76-79-155) finished sixth.

In the 58th NYS Junior Girls Golf Championship, also played at Seven Oaks Golf Club, Samantha Rohr of Albany Academy for Girls (80-88-168) finished tied for 12th, Jillian Rawson, also of Albany Academy for Girls (86-83-169) finished tied for 15th and Maria Jackson of Saratoga Springs (92-85-177) tied for 22nd.

Kennedy Swedick of Albany Academy, who already qualified for match play at the USGA Girls’ Junior Championship recently and then had a strong showing as a sponsor’s exemption at the Symetra Tour’s Twin Bridges Championship last week, qualified for match play at the Girls’ Junior PGA Championship this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Nicole Criscone, another Albany Academy standout, also represented the NENY PGA section there.

Schenectady Municipal Golf Course will host the 13th annual Schenectady City School District Hall of Fame Golf Tournament Sept. 12. The format will be a modified four-person scramble. Entry fee is $400 per foursome and includes golf, cart, buffet and prizes. This event was named in honor of SCSD Athletic Hall of Fame member Peter Famiano for 10 years. Call Bob Pezzano at 518-346-9297 for more information.

Town of Colonie Golf Course will host the Northeastern New York PGA’s Drive, Chip and Putt sub-regional Aug. 22. The top three players from each age division of the local qualifiers advance to this round.

The 34th annual Shaker Ridge Invitational is set for August 27-29 at Shaker Ridge Country Club. The tournament consists of four scratch divisions of two-man teams with a maximum field of 60 teams. Teams will be flighted after the first 36 holes. Applications close Aug. 19. Entry fee is $470 per team. Jim Gifford and Jim Welch are defending champions in the Championship Division. Tony Hejna and Matt Clarke teamed up to win the Senior Division a year ago, and Gary Grimaldi combined with Chris Nachtrieb to win the Super Senior Division. For more information, contact the pro shop at 518-869-5101.

Van Patten Golf Club’s Three Tee Challenge will be held Saturday; with starting times beginning at 1 p.m. Entry fee is $75 per player. Players can choose their tees but they must play six black tees, six white tees and six silver tees. Contact Van Patten GC or more information at 518-877-5400.

Also scheduled for Saturday will be the Schoharie County Amateur Open at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club. Sponsored by Mohawk Honda, the event will feature an Open Division (blue tees), Men’s Division (white tees), Senior Division (age 55 and older), Super Senior Division (silver tees), Women’s Division and Senior Women’s Division, as well as a Junior Division for players under 18. Gross and net prizes will be awarded. Entry fee of $48 includes golf and cart. Contact Cobleskill G&CC (518-234-4045) for more information.

The 30th annual John C. Daly-James W. Michaels ALS Memorial Open, to benefit the ALS Regional Center, returns after a year off because of the COVID pandemic. The popular tournament, with a new scramble format, will be played Sept. 22, with a rain date of Sept. 29, at Van Patten Golf Club. There will be only one squad this year at 10:30 a.m. Cost per foursome is $760. In the previous 29 seasons, this tournament has raised $2.3 million for the ALS Regional Center. There will be several special live-auction items available, including a New Year’s weekend in Chicago and tickets to the Bears vs. New York Giants game, as well as an exclusive New Year’s Eve party at a high-end hotel. Entry forms will be mailed out in early August.

HOLES-IN-ONE

Jules Jones of Pittsburgh used a 7-iron for her hole-in-one on the 105-yard seventh hole at Briar Creek Golf Course.

At The Edison Club, member Rich Berkowitz aced the fifth hole with a 6-iron.

Bob Leary collected his second career hole-in-one with a 7-iron on the sixth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Alex Neil used a 7-iron for his hole-in-one on the 163-yard eighth hole at Stadium Golf Club.

EAGLES

Dave Boughton eagled the par-4 second hole with a 2 hybrid at Stadium Golf Club while playing in the Knights of St. John league.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

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