Now, the hard part begins.
A relatively easy first-round setup at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course produced a cutline that left nearly all 21 remaining players with at least an outside shot for the Gazette Senior County Amateur Golf Championship.
But in order to win the title, the remaining players in the field will have to battle nerves that many of the challengers haven’t experienced before.
It’s no surprise that two-time defending champion Paul Pratico captured the first-round lead with a two-under-par 70, a shot ahead of former champion Mike Carroll of Mohawk Golf Club. More of a surprise was the play of veteran Jay Taub, who was three-under-par on the front and finished with an even-par 72.
Seven-time regular County Amateur champion Jim Mueller, Dave Sutphen, Mike Mina and Keith Gillespie are another shot back with 73s, and only Mueller has experienced this level of championship-caliber pressure before.
Others in the chase include Don Bibby (74); 78-year-old Andy Long (75), a two-time former champion; Jim Fazio (75); Andy Bennett (75); Frank Manell (75); and Jim Ryan (75).
“It was a boring front nine,” said Pratico, who, along with his two Senior County Amateur crowns, also has six regular County
Amateur titles. “I was on the fringe in two on the second hole, but I had to putt through some water and didn’t make a very good stroke. I ended up with a par. I made a key up-and-down par on the fourth hole and missed a seven-foot birdie chance on the seventh hole. Then, I putted for eagle from just off the green on the ninth hole and went well past the hole, settling for a par.”
Pratico’s front nine included nine straight pars. He barely missed an eagle on his approach shot on the par-4 10th hole, and then was too aggressive on his birdie putt. But he finally rolled in his first birdie on the 12th hole. After another par-saver on the par-3 15th hole, he connected for a five-foot birdie on the 16th hole.
His only bogey was on the par-3 17th hole, when he hit his approach shot into the bunker and lipped out his par putt. He nailed his approach shot from 112 yards to just 12 feet and knocked in the birdie putt on the 18th hole.
“In the first round, I’m usually just getting my feet wet and getting my rhythm back. I’m pretty happy with my back side today,” he said.
“When you don’t play that much, it’s hard to get the rhythm right with your putting stroke.”
Carroll, like Pratico, was a par machine. He connected for 15 pars. After opening up with his only bogey on the very first hole, he birdied the second and 16th holes.
“I was hitting the ball pretty straight, and I made some pretty good putts today,” he said. “The greens were in excellent condition, and the fairways were surprisingly dry after all the rain we had earlier in the week. The superintendent here [Mike Scesney] does a great job.”
Taub regularly competes in County Amateur events and is a good bet to make a cut or two, but the way he started out Thursday, he looked like he was ready to shoot for his first title.
His front nine included birdies on the second hole, when his eagle putt stalled on the lip of the cup, the fifth hole and the ninth hole.
But he ran into trouble on the back nine with bogeys on the 10th, 13th and 16th holes. His only birdie on the back was on the par-5 12th.
“I hit some bad irons on the back nine,” said Taub. “I drove it well all day, and I took advantage of most of the par-5s, just the way you are supposed to. I also putted pretty well on the front.”
Only the low 20 and ties gross advanced to today’s final round.
Net championships were crowned after the first round. Mike Digiloramo won the 50-59 age division with a 66. Carl Gilbert was the 60-69 net winner, also with a 66, while the surprising Long was both the 70-plus and the overall net champion with a 64. Long, who now has an 11 handicap, has been recuperating from lung cancer surgery.
Made the cut: Paul Pratico 70, Mike Carroll 71, Jay Taub 72, Jim Mueller 73, Dave Sutphen 73, Mike Mina 73, Keith Gillespie 73, Don Bibby 74, Andy Long 75, Jim Fazio 75, Andy Bennett 75, Frank Manell 75, Jim Ryan 75, Dave Bowder 76, Glenn Stopera 76, Woody Winslow 77, James Follain 77, Pete DiSimone 77, Jim Gardy 77, Dave Nicholson 77, Kevin Dwyer 77.
Other scores: Carl Gilbert 76 (withdrew), Peter Andrikopoulos 78, James Gleason 78, Mark Compton 78, Kenny Hall 78, George Hillenbrandt 78, Mike Digiloramo 78, Frank DeGraw 79, Jim Reid 79, Joe Romeo 79, Mike Pollock 80, Jack McMahon 80, Mike Daley 80, John Havlik 80, Dave Hillier 80, Neil Golub 81, Mario Marino 81, Neil Chambers 81, Moe Mroczkowski 81, Joe Genovesi 81, Armand Amedore 81, Don Blaha 82, Ron Anzalone 82, Joe Monteparo 83, Joe Lazzari 83, Bob Smith 84, Sal Capitummino 84, Mike Deines 85, Todd Trepess 85, Bruce Barach 85, Larry Edwards 85, Harry Morgan 85, Richard
Alvarez 85, Tony Costello 85, John Weldon 85, Don Dobbs 86, John Simons 86, Rick Gross 86, Allen Cromer 86, Joe Druzba 86, Tinker Young 89, Gary Slater 89, Tom Bush 91, Tom West 92, Tom Nasadoski 92, Mike Lucey 97, Bill Frutchy WD, Bill Sweet WD.
7:00 — Kevin Dwyer, Dave Nicholson. 7:10 — Jim Gardy, Pete DiSimone, James Follain. 7:20 —Woody Winslow, Glenn Stopera, David Bowder. 7:30 — Jim Ryan, Frank Manell, Andy Bennett. 7:40 — Jim Fazio, Andy Long, Don Bibby. 7:50 — Keith Gillespie, Mike Mina, Dave Sutphen. 8:00 — Jim Mueller, Jay Taub, Mike Carroll, Paul Pratico.