Paul Pratico isn’t satisfied. Not by a long shot.
After claiming his sixth Gazette County Amateur Golf Championship, the 52-year-old former pro has his sights on making it a clean sweep by winning the Gazette Senior County Amateur for the third straight year this August.
And then, he’s after Jim Mueller’s all-time record of seven County Amateur trophies.
“Six titles is pretty good,” said Pratico, who rallied from a three-shot deficit after the opening round to shoot a one-under-par 71 and finish the rain-shortened County Am with a two-day total of one-over-par 145 Sunday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
“After Jimmy got two more titles a few years ago, it gave me something to shoot for. I’ve got to win a few more really quickly, because there are a lot of really good players coming up.
Pratico held off one of those young guns, 28-year-old Shaker Ridge Country Club assistant greenskeeper Todd Czepiel, whose eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole hung on the lip and refused to fall. Czepiel also shot a 71 Sunday, and finished with a two-day total of 146.
Tied for third were first-round leader Chad Stoffer (76-147) and defending champion Ben Bates (74-147).
Muny’s rain-soaked layout played extremely difficult all weekend from the black tees. Only four players broke par over the two days, with Stoffer shooting a 71 on Saturday and Pratico, Czepiel and three-time champ Ed Chylinski matching that score on Sunday.
“I thought I would have to shoot a 68 or a 69 in the final round to win this year,” said Pratico, who celebrated Father’s Day with his wife and daughter walking and riding along to give him support. “The pins were very tough day — not as tough as they were Saturday. Plus, it was windy again, but this time the wind helped us out more than it hurt us on some of the holes. I had to hit a long iron into the 18th green on Saturday, and today I had to hit only a wedge.”
As usual, Pratico was steady throughout his round. He birdied the second, seventh and ninth holes to make the turn at three-under-par. His only miscues on the back side were missing a short par putt on the par-5 12th hole and then failing to get up and down on the par-3 17th hole after his approach shot came up short of the green.
“I was just trying to play my own game and play the course,” he said. “If you have a big lead, you want to know how the other players are doing, so that you don’t do something stupid. But when it’s close, like it was today, I would just as soon not know what everyone else is doing so I can concentrate on my own game and keep my focus.”
Pratico hit 16 of 18 greens, missing only the fourth green on the front side.
“I just kept it in play and tried to two-putt,” he said. “I had a good feel for the speed of the greens today.”
Pratico, who works for Golf Galaxy, doesn’t compete in many tournaments anymore because of his work schedule, but he always gears up for the County Amateur, and now the Senior County Amateur, every year.
“I think I can remain competitive if I try to get a little more fit and eat better,” he said. “I usually start to get ready for the County Amateur about two weeks before we play. But if I’m going to stay ahead of these young guys, I’ve got to get into better shape.”
Czepiel, a former Eagle Crest Shootout champion, fought off a balky putter to make a solid run at Pratico. He birdied the fifth, sixth, 11th and 16th holes, but he also bogeyed the fourth, seventh and 12th.
“I thought I hit the ball very well both days, but I couldn’t make any putts,” he said. “I chipped in twice today, but I missed a few short putts.”
The key missed putt was on that 18th hole. If it dropped, he could have forced a playoff.
“I waited several seconds for it to drop, but it never did,” he said. “I didn’t know at the time that the putt would be so important.”
Stoffer, a two-time County Amateur runner-up and former Tri-County Match Play titlist, played solidly on the front side by hitting eight of nine greens and getting up and down for par on the fifth hole, the only green he missed. But his approach shot on the eighth hole went long, rolling up to the upper tier. The flag was on the lower tier, and it left him a tough downhill birdie putt. He judged that first putt very well, but then missed a tricky par putt for his only bogey on the front side.
“I didn’t know exactly how hard to hit that putt,” he said.
Stoffer failed to get up and down on the 10th hole after missing the green, and he misfired on a short birdie putt on the 12th hole after chipping up to about two feet. He also bogeyed the 14th and 16th holes, failing to score any birdies in the final round.
The top 10 players — and ties — will receive gift certificates to Golf Galaxy.
Paul Pratico 71-145, Todd Czepiel 71-146, Ben Bates 74-147, Chad Stoffer 76-147, Jerry Brescia 74-148, Lance Hope 73-149, Ed Chylinski 71-149, Jack Stopera 74-151, Jim Gardy 75-151, Aaron Simone 77-152, Greg Stopera 79-152, Tom Salmon 75-152, Mike Drake 7 5-153, Jim Mueller 73-153, Rob Bigley Jr. 81-154, Brandon Haase 79-156, Seth Adams 73-156, Tony Cristello 78-157, Alex Olbrych 76-157, Rob Bigley Sr. 7 8-157, Frank Manell 78-158, Steve Mango 81-158, Kenny Hall 80-160, Jay Taub 80-160, Nicholas Longo 81-161, Jim Follain 82-161, Joe Cimmino 81-162, Jay Singh 80-162, Glenn Stopera 81-162, Andy Bennett 81-162, Mario Marino 82-164, George Hillenbrandt 81-164, Kevin Dwyer 81-164, Josh Powers 82-165, Mike Mina 84-165, Chris Gilbert 89-165, Paul Carnivale 84-166, Mark Compton 87-169, Peter Andrikopoulos 86-169, Kyle Adams 88-171, Chris Pierpont 91-172, Patrick Woodfield WD.