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Down the Fairway: Pratico a force in Schenectady Muni majors

Down the Fairway: Pratico a force in Schenectady Muni majors

Bob Weiner's weekly look at Capital Region golf
Down the Fairway: Pratico a force in Schenectady Muni majors
Paul Pratico
Photographer: Bob Weiner

Paul Pratico’s consistency, confidence and coolness under fire make him a threat to win Schenectady Municipal Golf Course’s two most important major tournaments every summer.

The 58-year-old former pro possesses a machine-like golf swing. He admits that he can’t hit his tee shots as long as he used to, but he’s still one of the favorites to beat players half his age when the Schenectady Classic tees off Friday through Sunday.

Pratico captured his seventh Schenectady Classic — formerly the Gazette Schenectady County Amateur — a year ago, when he fired a blistering 31 on the back nine to win by six shots. He’s also finished second an estimated half-dozen times and is currently second on the all-time list of Gazette-sponsored tournament victories with 11. Jim Mueller owns eight Schenectady Classic titles and like Pratico has four Schenectady Senior Classic trophies.

This extremely wet spring has limited Pratico’s preparation for this year’s event. 

“I’m getting there, but it’s been tough this year. With the weather and the rain, trying to get out to play and practice hasn’t been easy. Everything is so wet,” Pratico said. “The last week or two, I’ve finally been able to get in some rounds and start to get into game shape. What I’m concerned about now is hitting the ball off the tee. The younger kids carry it further in the air than I do, and it’s so wet that I don’t get the roll I usually do.”

Pratico said that his fundamentally sound, streamlined golf swing hasn’t changed much over the years.

“The way I swing, I don’t have too many moving parts. The kids have that newer swing with all that rotation and turn. It’s hard to keep the ball on-line,” Pratico said. “I try to keep everything solid and squared-up to center on contact. But it’s getting harder as I get older every year. The par-5s are harder to reach.

“I’m trying to concentrate more on hitting the shots that are 60 to 100 yards out and focus on my wedge game, knocking it close. I’ve got to work on my short game to get it up and down. Even though my distance is falling back a little, I still keep the ball in play and giving myself chances at the green.”

Pratico’s patient strategy is to hit fairways and greens. It’s worked for nearly four decades.

“You don’t want to miss the green on the wrong side and get in trouble,” he said. “When you hit the middle of the greens sometimes, you can make par and move on. Last year, when I shot that 31 on the back nine, more of my putts fell. Most of them were medium in length. If you keep the ball in the fairway, you can control what the ball does in terms of spin. I’m just trying to tune up my game and get my fundamentals down.”

Other players to watch include former champions Mueller, Jerry Brescia, Aaron Simone, Mike Wheeler, Bob Cooper, Rob Bigley Jr., Tom Salmon and Ben Bates along with reigning Troy Invitational champion Lance Hope, former NYS Mid-Amateur titlist Jim Welch, Glenn Stopera, Brandon Haase and Ryan Tatlock.

Two-time defending champion Nancy Kroll is the favorite to win the women’s division, which competes Friday and Saturday. Other top contenders include Anne Poulin, Cherie Bramley, Deb DiMaggio and Rachel Barlette.

FUN EVENT

I played in the SUNY Cobleskill Foundation Golf Tournament Friday at Cobleskill G&CC, and our group had a blast.

I wasn’t much help to the group, which included SUNY Cobleskill sports information director/cross country coach Mitch Tomaszkiewicz, UAlbany Corporate and Foundation director Rich Becker, a former local TV sports anchor at FOX23, and former SUNY Cobleskill golf team MVP Connor McCarthy, but the course stood up to all the recent wet weather surprisingly well.

It was quite an experience watching McCarthy, a super-talented lefty, bomb his mammoth tee shots. I’ve played with Mitch numerous times, and he’s got a very solid game, but I was very surprised how much Mr. Becker has improved since the old days, when he belonged to the Daily Gazette golf league. I was way out of my league.

CHIP SHOTS

Also going on this weekend is the Saratoga County Amateur Golf Championship, with the first round at Eagle Crest Golf Club on Friday and the second round at Van Patten Golf Club on Saturday. There is no cut.

Local club pros from the Northeastern New York PGA are competing in their second major of the season with the two-day Donald Ross Classic Sunday and Monday. The site for Sunday’s first round, usually The Sagamore Resort, has been switched to Hiland Park Golf Club in Queensbury. The final round remains at Glens Falls Country Club, with an 8 a.m. shotgun start.

Cobleskill G&CC is the host for the next Eastern New York Golf Association event on Wednesday.

The Stand Up and Play Foundation’s second annual golf tournament, to benefit disabled veterans and first responders, will be held July 22 at Fairways of Halfmoon. Anyone interested in playing should contact Mark Boucher at [email protected].

The UHY Prep Series for the American Junior Golf Association UHY Championships will be held June 22-23 at Colonie Golf & Country Club. AJGA exemptions to the boys and girls champions will be awarded for the AJGA-UHY Championship July 29-Aug. 1 at Ballston Spa Country Club.

Former Schenectady City Judge Bruce Martin of Schenectady shot his age (84) last week at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Stadium Golf Club hosts the 16th annual Bill Baker Memorial Mohonasen Foundation Golf Tournament July 12. Entry fee is $85 and includes golf, cart, Continental breakfast, buffet lunch and beer and soda on the course. Registration is 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., followed by a 8:30 a.m. shotgun start. The format will be mixed scramble. Contact Harry Lampman (518-374-5411) for more information.

Former Gazette Women’s Amateur champion Tiffany Maurycy teamed up with Holly Schaefer to win the Colorado Golf Association’s Women’s Mashie Championship this week. Maurycy, 52, won the CGA Women’s Senior Match Play last year and secured the 2003 CWGA Brassie two-person tournament in 2003. Maurycy, the daughter of NENY PGA Hall of Famer and former longtime Mohawk Golf Club head pro Tiffany Maurycy, is a former NYS Women’s Amateur champion (1989).

HOLES-IN-ONE

Jim Zalewski aced the 170-yard 17th hole at Cobleskill G&CC with a 6-iron. It was his second hole-in-one.

Paul Wilkes collected his first hole-in-one with an 8-iron on the 150-ayrd 11h hole at Pinehaven Country Club.

Chick Cairo holed out with a driver for a hole-in-one on the 180-yard 25th hole at The Edison Club.

At Briar Creek, Jeff Madej aced the 120-yard ninth hole with a pitching wedge.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.

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