Several former champions think they have the right formula to win the Gazette Senior County Amateur Golf Championship, which tees off today with the first of two rounds at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
And each strategy is a just a little bit different.
“I just like to keep the ball in play and shoot under par on the par-5s,” said former champ Tony Cristello of Pinehaven Country Club. “You also have to make a lot of pars in the Senior County Am. A couple of years ago when I won the title, I made 32 pars over two days. If you keep the ball in play and stay away from big numbers, you have a chance.”
“I think the key is putting,” said former titlist Mike Carroll of Mohawk Golf Club. “My goal is to hit the ball straight down the middle and execute my irons. I don’t have the length that I used to, but if I hit a lot of greens, I can let my putter do the talking.”
Three-time winner Al Nebolini of The Edison Club has a different point of emphasis.
“I believe you need positive thoughts,” he said. “You have to block out everything and play your own game. You can’t worry about Tom, Dick or Harry. You’ve just got to play the course.”
A field of 66 players will be competing in three different divisions — 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus — for net championships. Only the low 20 and ties advance to Friday’s final round for the overall low gross title.
Paul Pratico, a five-time champion of the regular Gazette County Amateur, is the defending champion and will be a strong favorite to repeat. He’s been practicing his short game all week at Schenectady Municipal.
Joining Carroll, Cristello and Nebolino as former Gazette Senior County Am champs are five-time winner Neil Golub and two-time winner Andy Long, who is driving back from his home in Pennsylvania to compete for the first time in many years. Former champs are eligible to play, even if they no longer live in Schenectady County.
Seven-time County Am titlist Jim Mueller (two knee surgeries) and five-time Senior County Amateur winner Bill Moll (shoulder injury) won’t be competing this year. Nor will three-time County Am champ Mike Bayus, who has a scheduling conflict.
Most of the former champions have been in top form recently.
“I’ve been striping the ball, making a lot of birdies over at Pinehaven,” said Cristello. “Pinehaven isn’t an easy course, and I’ve been shooting in the mid-70s over there quite consistently. I’ve been having some problems with my chipping, but I’m hitting the ball well and putting it well. The more I play with Robby Bigley, the better I play. He’s made me a better player just by hanging around him.”
“I’m on again and off again. That’s golf,” added Carroll, a former club champion and Mohawk Member-Guest winner. “But my putter is treating me right. I’ve got some new irons in the bag, a set of Titleist AP2s. I’ve been a Titleist man for the last 40 years, and I still have a set of my old clubs. But when it comes to my putter, I’m still using an old Ping Anser 2. I don’t like any of those new big-headed putters.
“I’m looking forward to the Senior County Amateur, and I’m hoping to do well.”
Nebolini says he’s been playing solid golf at The Edison Club, where he plays four times a week.
“I was hitting the ball great until the other day, but I’m having a lesson with [Edison head pro] Craig McLean to see if we can get everything figured out,” he said.
“My putting has been great so far. I love the greens over at The Edison Club. That course is in great shape. Hopefully, the rest of my game will be sharp, as well.”
Other top challengers include three-time County Amateur winner Bill Frutchy, Jay Taub, John Reagan, Glenn Stopera, Jim Follain, Harry Morgan, Dave Sutphen, Mike Mina, Kenny Hall, Frank DeGraw, Mario Marino and Peter Davis.
Today’s round will have a 9 a.m. shotgun start.
1A — Paul Pratico, Al Nebolini, Mike Carroll, Tony Cristello.
1B — Jay Taub, John Reagan, Glenn Stopera, Andy Bennett.
9A — Joe Lazzari, Joe Druzba, John Weldon, John Burns.
10A — Frank Galvin, Randy Hines, Jim Reid, Jack McMahon.
10B — Sal Capitummino, Harry Morgan, Ronald Anzalone.
11 — Tom Nasadoski, Tony Costello, Armand Amedore, Bill Stuart.
12A — Peter Andrikopoulos, Joe Tinning, Fred Mullins, Tinker Young.
12B — Paul Carnivale, Mike Daley, Al Cromer, John Simons.
13A — Rick Gross, Ron Gross, Mark Hannon, Moe Mroczkowsky.
13B —Joe Monteparo, George Hillenbrandt, Pete DiSimone, Dave Hillier.
14 — Jim Fazio, Richard Alvarrez, Drew Diumano, Woody Winslow.
15A — Bob Dufort, Joe Romeo, Bob Smith, Mike Deines.
15B — Keith Gillespie, Larry Edwards, Mike Lucey, Carl Gilbert.
16 — Bruce Barach, Mark Compton, Mario Marino, Peter Davis.
17A — Jim Follain, Dave Sutphen, Mike Mina, Kenny Hall.
17B —Frank DeGraw, Mike Pollock, Bruce Coons, Dave Billman.
18A — Neil Golub, Andy Long, Bill Frutchy.