If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
That’s why the machine-like Paul Pratico has been a model of consistency whenever he tees it up in the annual Gazette Schenectady County Amateur Golf Championship.
The three-day scratch tournament begins Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, and you can bet the farm that the consistent Pratico will own a place high on the leaderboard all weekend.
The former pro is not only the defending champion, but he also has six overall County Amateur titles to his credit and numerous runner-up finishes. To emphasize his consistency, Pratico has also dominated the Gazette Senior County Amateur, winning all three events he’s been eligible for since turning 50.
“I guess I’ll be competitive,” said Pratico, who doesn’t play much tournament golf, but always points to this event.
“I kind of start my season with this tournament,” he said. “I don’t play a lot, and I haven’t been out that much, as usual. But I do start preparing for the County Amateur a couple of weeks before, and I spend a lot of time chipping and putting over at the Muny practice greens.”
Pratico makes no apologies for being an old-school type of player who seldom makes changes with his swing or his equipment.
“I had early instruction with some very good fundamentals,” he said. “I try to keep everything simple. Nowadays, the swing is getting very complicated with all the mechanics the new instructors are trying to teach. I just think it’s confusing to the young kids coming up. My swing is somewhat simple, and I don’t make too many changes.”
Pratico said he learned the game from his older brother, Jim.
“My brother was nine years older than me, and he went the pro route,” Pratico said. “He was an assistant pro at Normanside Country Club for about six or seven years, and he was basically the main person who taught me the game. He was my go-to instructor. Other people threw some advice at me, and I was always polite, but it usually went in one ear and out the other. My brother was the main guy.”
Pratico said that his brother tried to teach him how to swing like Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, two of the all-time greats.
“At the time, he tried to develop my swing somewhat like Jack Nicklaus, in his book, ‘Golf My Way,’ and he also took some swing thoughts from Tom Watson,” Practico said. “I feel it’s a swing that you can get it back quickly and not need a long time to fix if you’re a little off.”
Pratico also likes to keep the same equipment, for the most part.
“I’ve tried some new designs with clubs and putters, but I usually go back to what works,” he said. “I’ve always kind of liked forged blade irons, for example, and I just can’t look at other clubs.”
Pratico said the reason he is always in contention for the title is that he tries to avoid mistakes.
“I even try talking to the younger kids about this,” he said. “Even if my advice helps them to beat me, I’m always telling them not to take too many chances early. Pars are good. If you add up your birdies, they are nice, but if you eliminate your bogeys, you are probably going to be even more successful.”
Other former champions include seven-time winner Jim Mueller, three-time winners Rob Bigley Jr., Mike Bayus, Ed Chylinski and Bill Moll, along with two-time winner Bob Cooper and single-time champions Ben Bates and Tom Salmon.
Gazette Senior County Amateur titlists in the field include five-time champions Neil Golub and Moll, Pratico, Mike Carroll and Tony Cristello.
The low 40 and ties advance to Saturday’s second round, and the low 20 and ties from Saturday move on to Sunday’s final round.
7:00 — Rob Bigley Jr., Matt Panneton, Mike Stopera.
7:10 — Ben Bates, Dave Sutphen, Brian Daley.
7:20 — Neil Golub, Mike Carroll, Ed Chylinski.
7:30 — Alex Olbrych, Ben Smith, Bill Moll.
7:40 — Lance Hope, Mike Casey, Corey Barringer.
7:50 — John Mendrysa, Tony Cristello, Aaron Simone.
8:00 — Paul Pratico, Bob Cooper, Tom Salmon.
8:10 — Brandon Haase, Jerry Brescia, Andy Bennett.
8:20 — Kenny Hall, Mike Bayus, Dave DeMarco.
8:30 — Carl Gilbert, Mike Lucey, Chris Gilbert.
8:40 — Angelo Menegias, Peter Andrikopoulos, Todd Trepess.
8:50 —Ross Lackey, Mario Marino, Craig Schoonmaker.
9:00 — Jim Mueller, Bill Sweet, Jay Taub.
9:10 — Paul Carnivale, Tim Lewandowski Chris Pierpont.
9:20 — Thomas Kenneally, Brandon Alois, Derrick Brown.
9:30 — Peter Davis, Moe Mroczkowski, Mike Pollock.
9:40 —Allen Cromer, Mike DiGirolamo, Dan Maloy.
9:50 — Don Blaha, Mark Compton, Mike Drake.
10:00 — Joe Plantz, J.P. Hebert.
10:10 — Scott Grabicki, Walt Peretti, Peter Guidarelli.
12:00 — Todd Czepiel, Chad Stoffer, Mike Dwyer.