SCHENECTADY — For one blustery weekend, Ben Bates was on a completely different level than the rest of the talented field in the annual Schenectady Classic.
Bates, a 40-year-old big hitter with a long history of local success, captured his third title in this event, previously called the Schenectady County Amateur, Sunday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. His dominating effort from tee to green produced a 9-under-par 207 for the three-day scratch tournament to win by nine strokes over former pro Joe Fitzsimmons out of Shaker Ridge CC (71-216). Eight-time winner Paul Pratico was third with a 73-219.
Bates, a Skidmore College graduate and former NYS Junior Boys Amateur champion, shot a 6-under-par 66 in the opening round, a 71 in the second round and a 70 in the final round. All three rounds were affected by extremely strong winds, and two of the rounds had much colder temperatures than usual. There were only a handful of sub-par rounds over the weekend despite the fact that many of the best players in the Capital Region were part of the 66-player field.
“There was no catching Ben this weekend,” said Pratico “He was striking the ball and getting up and down. His length off the tee is phenomenal. On this course, he has a lot of short irons to the green. He hits a lot of greens and makes a lot of putts. He had the whole game this weekend. He was playing on another level than anyone else.”
Fitzsimmons agreed with Pratico’s observations. “Ben was just too good this weekend and all tournament. He played great all week,” Fitzsimmons said.
Bates, who also dominated the competition for many years as club champion and a multiple winner of the Mohawk Member-Guest at Mohawk Golf Club, said he uses a simple philosophy to conquer windy conditions.
“The wind was a factor, but I think when you’re hitting it solid, the wind does less to you,” he said. “If you hit it to the right, or you hit it too high, the wind affects it more. I was able to hit it solid all three days, and when I got into trouble, I didn’t compound my mistakes,” he said. “I just made par and moved on. For whatever reason, it came easy this week. Most of the time, that’s not the case.”
Bates literally breezed through the front nine with birdies on the fourth, sixth (a chip-in) and eighth holes. The only blemish on his scorecard was a bogey on the par-3 13th hole, when his tee shot landed just above the green. He made an excellent chip to within a couple of feet, but his par putt just slipped past the cup for a bogey.
He made excellent up-and-down pars on the long par-3 15th and the par-3 17th holes to maintain his huge advantage over Fitzsimmons and Pratico.
“I had it [the big lead] on my mind. I knew where I stood with everybody,” Bates noted. “It didn’t get closer, fortunately. I wasn’t playing any different. I had control of my ball, and I hit it where I was trying to, for the most part. I kind of made conservative decisions but with aggressive swings. I tried to hit it to the middle of the greens. I wanted to play a good front nine. If I did that, it would be really difficult for anyone to catch me,” he said.
Fitzsimmons, a 38-year-old Colonie police officer and former CRAGA Stroke Play champion, played well all weekend, but he couldn’t gain ground on Bates.
“I tried to put a little pressure on him, but I couldn’t get the ball to the hole,” said Fitzsimmons, who birdied the sixth, ninth and 12th holes but gave up bogeys on the second and 11th.
Fitzsimmons said he is still trying to get used to his new work schedule, as he begins his shift at midnight. “All in all, I’m happy with the way I played,” he said. “I work midnights now. Sleep is rough these days. I stopped playing a lot of golf. I’ve got three little ones here to take care of during the day.”
Pratico, like Fitzsimmons a former pro, bogeyed the fifth hole on the front and bogeyed the 18th hole on the back. His only birdie was on the 12th hole, but he had 15 pars.
“It was a nice battle for second,” Pratico said. “We [he and Fitzsimmons] didn’t talk about it, but we kept an eye on each other. I tried to hold onto third place. I wanted to get something out of it.”
In the Schenectady Women’s Classic, Rachel Barlette won in a playoff over Pat Mayne after they tied at two-day totals of 154. Leslie Arakelian was third at 156.
Ben Bates 79-207, Joe Fitzsimmons 71-216, Paul Pratico 73-219, Griffith Hunter 73-220, Jimmy King 73-224, Travis Koch 77-225, Jim Welch 75-225, Jim Mueller 75-226, Mark Chylinski 73-226, Bob Cooper 75-227, Kevin Broderick 78-228, Tom Salmon 78-228, Alex Olbrych 75-228, Matthew Green 73-228, Chad Stoffer 75-229, Mike Stopera 76-231, Greg Bennett 76-231, Dan Russo 82-233, Paul Pratico Jr. 80-234, Andrew Weise 80-234, Clint Lange 80-235, Carter Flanigan 86-239, Lance Hope 84-239, Brandon Haase 86-241, Joe Marro DNF.
Here are the revised scores for the two-day Schenectady Women’s Classic.
Gross – Rachel Barlette 77-77-154 (won in playoff); Pat Mayne 77-77-154, Leslie Arakelian 78-78-156, Anne Poulin 84-809-164, Ann Capobianco 78-88-166, Laurie McBain 86-85-171, Debra DiMaggio 88-83-171, Grace Kochan 87-84-171, Laura Couch 87-87-174, Cindy LaFleur 91-85-176, Mary Assey 92-90-182, Sharon Pike 90-93-183, Christine Brown 96-94-190, Jamie Hall 99-91-190, Mary Hettie 91-99-190, Bonnie St. Denis 100-92-192, Carol Aiello 96-97-193, Liz SantaBarbara 109-105-214, Nancy Kroll 92-WD, Anne Noonan 106-DQ.
Net leaders – Anne Poulin 73-69-142, Mary Assey 73-71-144, Sharon Pike 78-71-149, Carol Aiello 74-75-149, Mary Hettie 71-79-150.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected]