You will never guess who is in the driver’s seat after the opening round of the Gazette Senior County Amateur Golf Championship.
No big surprise here. It’s Paul Pratico, the former professional who not only won his first senior division title a year ago, but also has five regular County Amateur trophies on his resume, along with countless runner-up finishes.
For more than 35 years, Pratico has been a force in County Amateur events at Schenectady Municipal, and Thursday was no different. His usual steady game from tee to green included an eagle-2 on the seventh hole, as well as three birdies. He had just one bogey en route to a four-under-par 68 to grab a three-shot leading heading into today’s final round.
Former champion Tony Cristello, who matched Pratico’s 33 on the front side, finished with a 71 and is primed to make a run today, when 23 players compete for the overall low gross title. Three shots back are former champion Mike Carroll, along with Glenn Stopera and Mario Marino.
Paul Carnivale, from the 50-59 age bracket, won the overall net crown with a sizzling 64. Bill Stuart’s 67 earned him the 60-69 age division net crown, and Jack McMahon fired a 68 to take the net championship in the 70-plus division.
“I left a few birdies out there,” said Pratico, who could had a score several shots lower. He misfired on a six-foot birdie try on the ninth hole, lipped out a birdie putt from just four feet on the par-3 13th hole and made an excellent run at a bird on the 16th hole before skipping his putt just over the cup from 15 feet on the 18th.
“The big shot of the day was my eagle on No. 7,” said Pratico, who holed out from 50 yards with his 60-degree wedge. “I heard it go in, but I didn’t see it.”
Pratico, who works in the golf business at Golf Galaxy but surprisingly plays in very few local tournaments these days, jumped out to a great start with birdies on the first two holes. He three-putted from the fringe on the par-3 sixth hole, but after his eagle on No. 7 finished with two strong pars.
The back nine was typical Pratico with par after par, many of them tap-ins. His only birdie was on the 12th hole.
In fact, the only time he was in any kind of trouble at all was on the par-3 15th hole, when he missed the green short and left. But he nearly chipped in for birdie and settled for a tap-in par to keep his round going.
Although he ended up with an easy par on the 16th hole, he got a little lucky on his only errant tee shot of the day. Guarding against pulling his drive into the hazard on the left, he pushed his tee shot well to the right toward the trees. But he was fortunate to have a shot back toward the fairway and then pitched on the green to set up an easy two-putt par.
“I had a steady game today,” Pratico said. “I gave myself a chance with the putter all day, and I could have knocked in a few more. The greens are as quick as they have ever been here, and they are rolling very well. I’m happy with the way I played. I’ve been in this position before.”
Another player who is very comfortable in the lead group is Cristello, a member of Pinehaven Country Club who has sharpened his game by playing with three-time County Amateur champion Robby Bigley several times a week.
“When you see good shots, you tend to play better, and I saw a lot of good shots from Paul today,” said Cristello. “I made some putts, and I hit the ball very well on the front nine. I didn’t play quite as well on the back, but at least I’m still in contention.”
Cristello connected for four birdies on the front — on Nos. 2, 3, 8 and 9 — but overshot the green on the seventh hole for his only bogey.
On the back, he birdied the 16th hole but suffered a double-bogey on the par-5 12th hole, when he pulled his hybrid club close to the hazard.
Carroll, another former champion who struck the ball well, had a few uncharacteristic putting woes, as did Stopera. The latter had a magnificent ball-striking round, but wasn’t as reliable as usual on the putting green.
50-59 — Gross: Paul Pratico 68, Tony Cristello 71, Glenn Stopera 74, John Reagan
75, Pete Davis 76, Andy Bennett 77, Jeff Barringer 78, Frank McGraw 78, Kenny Hall 78, Bruce Barach 79, Paul Carnivale 79, Jim Fazio 79, Jay Taub 79, Keith Gillespie 80, Mike Pollock 80, Sal Capitummino 81, Moe Mroczkowsky 82, Rick Gross 83, John Simons 85, Mark Compton 86, Frank Galvin 86, Tinker Young 86, Mike Daley 87, Al Cromer 90, Randy Hines 94, Don Gross 95, Mark Hannon 95. Net: Carnivale 64.
60-69 — Gross: Mike Carroll 74, Mario Marino 74, Dave Sutphen 75, Dave Billman 76, Mike Mina 76, Joe Romeo 77, Peter Andrikopoulos 78, Larry Edwards 78, Jim Follain 78, Bill Frutchy 78, Al Nebolini 78, Bill Stuart 78, Ronald Anzalone 83, Armand Amedore 79, George Hillenbrandt 79, Woody Winslow 79, Richard Alvarez 82, John Burns 82, Bruce Coons 82, Mike Deines 82, Bob Smith 82, Pete DiSimone 83, Tony Costello 84, Carl Gilbert 85, Joe Tinning 85, Bob Dufort 86, Mike Lucey 90, Joe Lazzari 95. Net: Stuart 67.
70-plus — Gross: Harry Morgan 76, Jim Reid 76, Jack McMahon 79, Neil Golub 80, Andy Long 85, Dave Hillier 86, John Weldon 87, Joe Druzba 90. Net: McMahon 68.
7:00 — Larry Edwards, Frank DeGraw.
7:08 — Bill Frutchy, Bill Stuart, Kenny Hall.
7:16 — Peter Andrikopoulos, Al Nebolini, Jeff Barringer.
7:24 — Jim Reid, Joe Romeo, Jim Follain.
7:32 — Peter Davis, Dave Billman, Andy Bennet.
7:40 — Dave Sutphen, Mike Mina, Harry Morgan.
7:48 — Mario Marino, Glenn Stopera, John Reagan.
7:56 — Paul Pratico, Tony Cristello, Mike Carroll.