SCHENECTADY — Two-time champion Ben Bates created numerous birdie opportunities with his booming tee shots en route to a bogey-free, 6-under-par 66 to grab a four-shot lead after the opening round of the Schenectady Classic Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Bates, 40, a Skidmore College grad, rolled in four birdies and added an eagle to open up some breathing room over eight-time titlist Paul Pratico, who posted a 70. Travis Koch, who plays out of Saratoga National Golf Club, sits in third place after shooting a 71. The 66-player field will be sliced to the low 20 scores and ties following Saturday’s second round.
Meanwhile, in the Schenectady Women’s Classic, Rachel Barlette of Shaker Ridge Country Club and former champion Pat Mayne of Western Turnpike Golf Club carded 77s to share a one-shot advantage over Ann Capobianco and multiple NEWGA champion Leslie Arakelian. The final round will be played Saturday with both gross and net titles at stake.
Bates, who often uses a 3-wood off the tee, because of his prodigious length, admitted that he did use his driver about half the time on Friday. The result was numerous scoring opportunities.
“I had a lot of opportunities, especially on the front,” said the former NYS Boys Amateur winner. “I missed good birdie putts on the first, fifth, sixth and seventh holes.”
He did cash in for birdie on the second, third, 13th and 14th holes to go along with his chip-in for eagle on the ninth.
“I reached the par-5 second hole in two and two-putted for birdie, and then I hit my approach on the third hole to one foot,” Bates noted. “But I think the key to my round was that I made some really good par putts to keep my round going on the fourth, 12th and 16th holes. Three times I was out of position off the tee, but I didn’t compound my mistakes and made those par putts when I had to.
“I was just trying to get the ball in play, especially when the wind blew a lot harder,” he explained. “When the wind picked up, I lowered my expectations and played more conservatively. I was playing with Paul Pratico, and he’s a model of consistency. I followed his game plan.”
Pratico, 61, the defending champion, was able to shoot red numbers despite giving up a tremendous amount of yardage off the tee to his playing partners. He birdied the first, sixth, ninth and 12th holes to offset bogeys on the fifth and 15th holes.
“My game came around pretty good today. Everything clicked,” said the former NYS Men’s Senior Amateur winner.
Koch, who has been competing in most of the area’s major events recently, had one of his best tournament rounds.
“That’s the best golf I’ve played this year,” he said. “I came out and played very solidly. I hit the ball very well.”
Joe Marro fired a 73, while eight-time champion Jim Mueller led a group of eight players who shot 74. Also posting that number were former NYS Men’s Mid-Amateur winner Jim Welch, Chris Gilbert, Griff Hunter, Connor Adams, Mark Chylinski, Carter Flanigan and former CRAGA Stroke Play winner Joe Fitzsimmons.
In the Schenectady Women’s Classic, Mayne, a multiple NEWGA titlist, earned a share of the lead despite recording just one birdie on the par-3 13th hole.
“I missed a lot of birdie chances on the front nine. There were a lot of tricky pins,” she said. “I would grade my game a B-minus. My irons weren’t very good, and when I did hit the greens, I was very far from the cup, leaving me some long putts.”
Barlette rallied on the back nine to earn a share of the lead. The former NEWGA champion rolled in birdies on the 12th, 14th and 16th holes.
“I struggled on the front,” she said. “I had a lot of wedge shots to the green, but my wedge game was not good today. My putter helped me scramble a lot on the front. I started playing better when I made the turn.”
Ben Bates 66, Paul Pratico Sr. 70, Travis Koch 71, Joe Marro 73, Jim Welch 74, Chris Gilbert 74, Griff Hunter 74, Connor Adams 74, Jim Mueller 74, Mark Chylinski 74, Joe Fitzsimmons 74, Carter Flanigan 74, Jim Toomey 75, Dan Russo 75, Kevin Broderick 75, Pete Lindner 76, Jimmy King 76, Brandon Haase 76, Nick Tellone 76, Mike Stopera 77, Greg Bennett 77, Alex Olbrych 77, Bob Cooper 77, Tom Salmon 77, Aaron Simone 77, Chris Hrycenko 77, Robert Helm 78, Clint Lange 78, Michael Lor 78, Ryan McDonnell 78, Greg Stopera 78, Andrew Weise 7 8 Dan Williams 79, Thomas Kenneally 79, Paul Pratico Jr. 79, Matt Panneton 79, Todd Czepiel 79, Lance Hope 79, Matthew Green 79, Chad Stoffer 79, Kevin Schlansker 80, Jay Taub 80, Kyle Adams 81, Yaw Boateng 81, David Smith 81, Tismark Boham 81, Jerry Brescia 81, Jared Trudeau 82, Andy Bennett 83, Brent Chylinski 83, Anthony Abbruzzese 84, Nicholas Roney 84, Carl Gilbert 85, Connor Desjardins 85, Jonathon Albrecht 86, Richard Duff 86, Craig Schoonmaker 86, Damon Adams 87, James DeSantis 87, Jeff Barringer 87, Mario Marino 87, Tim Flanigan 87, Don Dobbs 88, Scott Grabicki 89, Peter Davis 89, Dave Bintz 95.
Pat Mayne 77, Rachel Barlette 77, Ann Capobianco 78, Leslie Arakelian 78, Anne Poulin 84, Laurie McBain 86, Grace Kochan 87, Laura Couch 87, Debra DiMaggio 88, Sharon Pike 90, Mary Hettie 91, Cindy LaFleur 91, Mary Assey 92, Nancy Kroll 92 , Christine Brown 96, Carol Aiello 96, Jamie Hall 99, Bonnie St. Denis 100, Anne Noonan 106, Liz SantaBarbara 109.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].