There are several reasons why Paul Pratico is not only the two-time defending champion in the Gazette Senior County Amateur, but also a six-time winner of the regular Gazette County Am.
He’s a former professional whose discipline, attention to detail and consistency are a perfect recipe for success.
Pratico will once again be the big favorite when the Senior County Amateur is played today and Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
“I’m pretty steady,” admitted Pratico, who is always a lock to finish in the top five when he’s not on top. “I don’t have a lot of kinks in my swing, and I can get it back pretty quick by hitting balls, chipping and putting before a tournament. My swing feels about as good as it felt in the regular County Am and in the Eagle Crest Shoot-out [both victories]. My swing is pretty grooved right now.”
Pratico’s 13 years as a professional helped him tweak every facet of his game.
“I turned professional back in 1982 when I was 21 years old,” Pratico siad. “I turned pro at the U.S. Open qualifier that spring, and in the late summer or early fall, I went down to Florida to play in the Space Coast mini tours.”
Pratico traveled to Melbourne, Fla., along with his soon-to-be wife, and competed
in several series of five tournaments each.
“You would pay for five tournaments, play them, and then pay for five more. I got some of my money back, but I never had any major winnings. You would save just enough money to get into the next series,” he said.
“The competition down there was a lot stiffer. You could be one of the top amateurs or professionals up here, and be at the bottom of the barrel down there. It was a whole different game with the wind and the different Bermuda grass. You had to change your swing and develop some new skills while you were playing. It took a couple of years to make the adjustments.”
Although he would play the mini tours in Florida, Pratico also came back to the Capital Region to work as an assistant professional at Normanside Country Club, McGregor Links Country Club and Pine Brook Country Club.
“There wasn’t much money, and you worked a lot of hours,” he said. “You would get to work at 6 a.m. and work until about 9 p.m. You got Mondays off to play tournaments, and you tried to supplement your income by playing in the tournaments.”
Eventually, Pratico had enough of being a pro golfer, and he applied to get his amateur status back. He went to golf course maintenance school and then entered the golf retail business, first at Dick’s Sporting Goods and then at Golf Galaxy.
“I’ve done just about everything in the golf business,” he said. “Now that I’m one of the managers here at Golf Galaxy, my hours are up, and my playing time went down. But that’s the way it is.”
Former champion Jim Gardy believes someone will need to make a lot of birdies to take home the trophy this year. When he won in 2009, he fired a 67 in the first round. He was five-under-par on the par-5s, with an eagle and three birdies.
The local postal worker said he hasn’t been playing much lately.
“I play just once a week,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s bad. I’m finally going back to the day shift beginning on Saturday after working from 8:30 at night to 5:30 in the morning for quite a few years. I think the lack of sleep
finally got to me.”
Gardy’s strength is his accuracy off the tee.
“I drive the ball pretty straight. My short game suffers the most when I don’t play much, but my driver keeps me in the game. I’m not spraying the ball around. I keep it between the trees.”
Gardy said when he won a few years ago, his putting was one of the keys.
“I haven’t played that well lately. I’ve played a few rounds that were close to par here and there, but nothing really great,” he said. “But I did play fairly well during the regular County Amateur. The course was set up long, and it was wet. I was happy with the way I played on a tougher layout.”
Other former winners in the field include five-time titlist Neil Golub and fellow Mohawk Golf Club member Mike Carroll, as well as two-time winner Andy Long, who is traveling back to the area from his home in Carlisle, Pa. Seven-time regular Gazette County Amateur titlist Jim Mueller has yet to win a senior division crown, but he is among the favorites any time he tees it up at Schenectady Municipal.
Among the other top contenders are Andy Bennett, Glenn Stopera, Bill Sweet, Jim Follain, Mike Mina, Keith Gillespie, Jay Taub, Kenny Hall and Harry Morgan.
Net prizes will be awarded in the 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus divisions. The top 20 and ties gross advance to Friday’s final round.
7:00 — Jim Gardy, Jim Mueller, Paul Pratico, Neil Chambers.
7:10 — Mike Carroll, Bill Sweet, Bruce Barach, David Bowder.
7:20 — Andy Bennett, Glenn Stopera, Jim Follain, Mike Mina.
7:30 — Keith Gillespie, Carl Gilbert, Mike Lucey, Larry Edwards.
7:40 — Kevin Dwyer, Frank DeGraw, David Nicholson, Mark Compton.
7:50 — David Sutphen, Mike Pollock, Mario Marino, Woody Winslow.
8:00 — Jay Taub, Kenny Hall, Todd Trepess, George Hillenbrandt.
8:10 — Jim Fazio, Frank Manell, Jim Ryan, Moe Mroczkowski.
8:20 — Bob Smith, Mike Deines, Don Bibby, Don Blaha.
8:30 — Jim Reid, Jack McMahon, Pete DiSimone, Joe Monteparo.
8:40 — Neil Golub, Andy Long, Peter Andrikopoulos, Tinker Young.
8:50 — Joe Genovesi, John Simons, Rick Gross, Mike Daley.
9:00 — Ron Anzalone, Allen Cromer, Joe Romeo, Armand Amedore.
9:10 — Joe Lazzari, John Havlik, Harry Morgan, Richard Alvarez.
9:20 — Dave Hillier, Tony Costello, Tom Nasadoski, James Gleason.
9:30 — Gary Slater, Tom West, Thomas Bush, Sal Capitummino.
9:40 — Joe Druzba, John Weldon, Don Dobbs, Mike Digiloramo.