SCHENECTADY — After three grueling days of walking the extremely challenging Bethpage State Park’s Black Course during this week’s New York State Amateur in Farmingdale, Paul Pratico knew he could take a sigh of relief back on his home course.
“It feels great to be back home,” the 55-year-old Pratico said after carding a six-under-par 66 to grab the first round lead Thursday in the Schenectady Senior Classic, sponsored by The Daily Gazette. Pratico, a three-time winner of this event, previously known as the Gazette Schenectady Senior County Amateur, leads three-time defending champion Jim Mueller by a stroke heading into Friday’s final round at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Twenty-three players age 50-and-over made the cut at 78 or better. Net winners in the 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus divisions will be announced after handicap verification today. Only players with official USGA handicaps were eligible for net prizes.
Pratico, a former pro, didn’t fare very well at the demanding Bethpage State Park Black Course layout this week. He played one practice round and then shot rounds of 82 and 84 and missed the cut for Thursday’s 36-hole finale with a 24-over-par 166 total. Then he made the long trip back home late Wednesday night.
But his woes at Bethpage and very little sleep didn’t affect his play at Schenectady Muni, where he’s won six regular Schenectady Classic championships, to go along with his three senior trophies and numerous runner-up finishes.
“Three days at Bethpage meant a lot of walking for me, and in a way, it helped me, because I’m in a lot better shape for this tournament,” he said. “The scoring at Bethpage was brutal. There were so many holes where you had to carry the ball a long way off the tee just to reach the fairway. Bethpage is a young man’s course. Here at Muni, a lot of different age groups can play well.”
Last year’s New York State Senior Amateur champion rolled in seven birdies on holes 1, 2, 9, 12 13, 14 and 16. His only bogey was a three-putt on the tough par-4 eighth hole.
“The greens here at Muni are receptive, and they are rolling great,” Pratico said. “The course also played a little shorter from the white tees. It was a very scoreable course today.” Mueller, Pratico’s longtime nemesis, is only a stroke behind and is ready for another duel in the final round. The 58-year-old former postal employee won his eighth Schenectady Classic title earlier this summer in a playoff with Lance Hope and holds the all-time record of 11 victories in Schenectady County majors.
“I played very solidly after a slow start,” Mueller said. “I hit my tee shot behind a tree on the first hole and ended up with a bogey. Then I hit another terrible drive on the [par-5] second hole, but I managed to get up and down for par. But it felt like a bogey.”
Mueller rebounded with birdies on the third, fifth and ninth holes on the front and then tacked on three more birdies — all on the par-5s —– on the back nine. “All three players in our group [including Pratico and Mike Drake] were playing very well. It’s fun to play when everybody is playing well,” Mueller said. “I like to see good shots. I had to hit some good shots myself just to stay close to the lead.”
Three other players — Dave Sutphen, former champion Tony Cristello and newcomer Lucas Sirois — broke par with 70s, while Jay Taub and left-hander Glenn Stopera each matched par 72.
Sutphen, 67, registered six birdies and hit nearly every green in regulation during his consistent round. The Pinehaven CC member has finished runner-up twice in the Schenectady Senior Classic. “I was hitting the ball very close to the pin all day,” Sutphen said.
Cristello, also from Pinehaven CC, hit 15 greens and posted five birdies. “I missed two three-footers for birdie, but or the most part, I played very well. My score could have been even lower today,” he said.
Sirois, 52, is a cardiology technician at Ellis Hospital. Originally from Connecticut, the McNee State graduate moved to the area about eight years ago and is playing in his first major event at
Schenectady Muni. He birdied the fourth, 12th and 14th holes.
Taub and Stopera have both been runner-ups in the Schenectady Senior Classic before. Stopera rebounded from a 40 on the front nine with four birdies on the back nine for a 32.
RESULTS (Par 72)
Paul Pratico 66, Jim Mueller 67, Dave Sutphen 70, Lucas Sirois 70, Tony Cristello 70, Glenn Stopera 72, Jay Taub 72, Mario Marino 74, Bob Cooper 75, Neil Chambers 75, Jeff Barringer 76, Jim Reid 76, Mike Carroll 76, Mike Drake 76, Mike Mina 76, John Reagan 77, Peter Andrikopoulos 77, Todd Trepess 77, Glenn Coons 78, Mark Compton 78, Paul Hart 78, Pete Davis 78, Ronny Cohen 78.
Missed the cut — Don Blaha 79, Kevin Halburian 79, Kevin Dwyer 79, Don Dobbs 80, Joe DeLorenzo 80, Mike Pollock 80, Hank Haase 81, Mike Bayus 81, Bill Paulsen Jr. 82, Chris Fatone 82, Patrick Meehan 82, Ronald Anzalone 82, Jim Fazio 84, Carl Gilbert 85, Joe Lazzari 85, Peter Maioriello 85, Armand Amedore 86, Don Bibby 86, Paul Toth 86, Joe Daley 87, Tom Higgins 87, Tom Nasadoski 87, Joe Genovesi 89 Moe Mroczkowski 90, Rick Lackey 90, Frank DeGraw 92, Mike DiGilormao 92, Atiba Fadhilika-Weza WD.
7 a.m. — Pete Davis, Ronny Cohen.
7:10 — Mark Compton, Paul Hart, Glenn Coons.
7:20 — Peter Andrikopoulos, John Reagan, Todd Trepess.
7:30 — Mike Carroll, Mike Mina, Mike Drake.
7:40 — Neil Chambers, Jim Reid, Jeff Barringer.
7:50 — Glenn Stopera, Bob Cooper, Mario Marino.
8 — Tony Cristello, Lucas Sirois, Jay Taub.
8:10 — Paul Pratico, Jim Mueller, Dave Sutphen.