As a former champion with a lifetime residents-only exemption, Ed Chylinski has been driving back to Schenectady to compete in the Gazette County Amateur Golf Championship ever since he left the area more than a decade ago.
But this year is special.
The 64-year-old resident of Chester Valley, Pa., will be competing in his 50th County Amateur when the three-day event kicks off this morning at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. The low 40 and ties advance to Saturday’s second round, and the low 20 and ties play on Sunday for the title.
“I am really looking forward to coming back this year,” said the three-time winner. “I always like coming back to see guys like Mike Bayus, Bill Moll and my cousin, Jim Mueller.”
Chylinski’s game never seems to fade. He hits the ball longer off the tee than ever, and his fitness level helps him play like a youngster.
“The thing I work on the most is not golf. I’m working out and staying in shape. That’s the key,” he said. “I work out three times a week in the gym. The other important thing is flexibility. I’ve been doing yoga for 20 years. Those are the two most important things in my golf game. The golf part takes care of itself, and with the new equipment, I find that I’m actually hitting it farther than when I was a youngster.”
Chylinski is on a hot streak. He won the senior club championship recently at Chester Valley Country Club and was also the runner-up in the Philadelphia Golf Association Senior Championship.
“I’m playing a lot, and my game is pretty good right now. I’m having a very good year,” Chyinski said. “I spent some time in Florida over the winter, and I found that makes quite a difference when I come back to Pennsylvania.”
Chylinski is usually a lock to make the final cut, but he’ll have plenty of competition all weekend long from a group of players who always play well at Schenectady Municipal.
One such standout is Mohawk Golf Club member Ben Bates, the 2012 champion who is one of the longest hitters in the field. He dominated the tournament two years ago by using a 3-wood off the tee almost exclusively.
“I haven’t played a lot of good rounds yet, but I’ve been out just once or twice a week so far,” said Bates, a former New York State Junior Amateur champion who has 10 club titles at Mohawk GC.
“The only good thing is that the poor weather we’ve been having didn’t make me feel as if I was missing anything.”
Bates, 33, said his game is more of a roller coaster in the last couple of years since he’s been devoting more time to his young family.
“The good shots are still good, but my consistency is not there,” said the former Skidmore College standout. “When you don’t practice enough, you can sometimes play 16 holes well and then have two bad swings on two holes that can cost you two shots apiece. It’s just a matter of limiting your mistakes when you don’t play enough. You can hit some funny shots when you’re not playing four or five times a week like you used to.”
Bates said he is never afraid of gearing down his game to be more careful.
“I’ve never had a problem with shying away or backing down. I’ll hit an iron or a 3-wood off the tee if I have to,” he said. “It’s the number you shoot, not how far you hit it or what club you use.”
Other top contenders include defending and six-time champion Paul Pratico, seven-time winner Jim Mueller and other former champions like three-time titlists Rob Bigley Jr, two-time winner Bob Cooper and Tom Salmon.
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, Seth Adams, 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.