SCHENECTADY — Jim Gifford’s resume includes victories in most of the Capital Region’s most prestigious tournaments, but the 32-year-old Shenendehowa High School and Siena College product has never participated in the Schenectady Classic.
Gifford will make his debut in a strong field and should be among the top contenders when he tees it up Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. The former Gazette Men’s County Amateur features 83 players in the men’s division, which competes for two days before making a cut for the final round on Sunday. There will be 12 players in the women’s division, which competes Friday and Saturday.
For many years, Gifford couldn’t play in the Schenectady Classic because the field was limited to Schenectady County residents only. Although the rules changed to drop the residency requirement a few years ago, scheduling commitments prevented Gifford from playing until this year.
“I was looking for a tournament to play in before a couple of USGA qualifiers came up, and Chad Stoffer told me about the Schenectady Classic,” Gifford said. “It sounded like a good idea. I’m excited to play. I hear the field is a good one. I haven’t played that much competitive golf yet.”
Family commitments have limited Gifford’s tournament play for the last few years. He got married and just celebrated his daughter’s first birthday earlier this month.
Yet he’s been one of the most talented players in the area for the last 15 years. He’s won a handful of Saratoga County Amateur titles to go along with a couple Tri-County Match Play crowns and several Edison Invitational championships. Gifford has played in two USGA events — the Four-Ball Championship at Pinehurst with Stoffer and the U.S. Mid-Amateur. He’s also finished in the top 10 in numerous New York State Golf Association State Amateurs and State Mid-Ams.
“I enjoy playing in tournaments that are very competitive. I like knowing that you need a birdie or two late in the round,” he said.
There are nine former Schenectady Classic champions in the field, including defending champ Paul Pratico, who won his seventh crown a year ago to go along with four Schenectady Senior Classic wins. Pratico also is a former NYS Senior Amateur champion.
Eight-time Schenectady Classic champ Jim Mueller is also in the field, along with other former winners Rob Bigley Jr. (three titles), Bob Cooper (two), Aaron Simone, Ben Bates, Mike Wheeler, Tom Salmon and Jerry Brescia.
Along with Pratico and Mueller (four titles), there are also several Schenectady Senior Classic winners in the field, including Jim Gardy and Tony Cristello.
Other notables include defending Troy Invitational winner Lance Hope, who is a two-time runner-up in this event, three-time Troy Invitational champ and former NYS Mid-Amateur and Capital Region Amateur Golf Association Stroke Play titlist Jim Welch, former CRAGA winner Joe Fitzimmons and Stoffer, the two-time Tri-County Match Play winner who has also finished second numerous times in this tournament.
Lefty Glenn Stopera, who owns several top-five finishes in both the Schenectady Classic and Schenectady Senior Classic, former Eagle Crest Shootout champ Todd Czepiel, Brandon Haase, Ryan Tatlock, Mike Drake, Chris Gilbert, Seth Adams and RPI head golf coach Jamie Jackson are also strong contenders in the field.
KROLL TOPS WOMEN’S FIELD
Nancy Kroll has won the last two women’s division championships in this tournament. She is also a seven-time Northeastern Women’s Golf Association champion and a NYS Women’s Senior Amateur titlist.
7:00 — Jim Gardy, Walt Peretti.
7:10 — Jim Gifford, Joshua Powers, Bob Cooper.
7:20 — Mark Compton, Glenn Stopera, Chris Stopera.
7:30 — Greg Wyman, Brian Schlansker, Seth Adams.
7:40 — Pal Carnevale, Jason Nagel Ryan Tatlock.
7:50 — Lance Hope, Brandon Haase, Aaron Simone.
8:00 — Paul Pratico, Jay Taub, Ron Cohen.
8:10 — Mike Mina, Greg Bennett, John Mendrysa.
8:20 — Don Dobbs, Carl Gilbert, Chris Gilbert.
8:30 — Mike DiGiloramo, Connor Adams, Tyler Gregory.
8:40 — John Courter, Dan Giovannangelo, Tim Bean.
8:50 — Eric Borden, Michael Kelly, Kyle Adams.
9:00 — Ben Bates, Jim Mueller, Mark Chylinski.
9:10 — Shaun Miller, Chris DiCocco, Tim Flanigan
9:20 — Paul Hart, Tony Cristello, Ross Lackey.
9:30 — Adam Cahill Jason Hoch, Salem Jacobsen.
9:40 — Mike Drake, Mike Stopera, Eric Wasserbach.
9:50 — Matt Wilgocki, Mike Dwyer, Carter Flanigan.
10:00 — Mike Wheeler, Tom Salmon, Andy Bennett.
10:10 — Steven Caiazza, Rich Duff, Dan Ireland.
10:20 — Jamie Jackson, Sean Mallia Matt Rentz.
10:30 — Mike Pollock, Brandon Alois, Jerry Brescia.
10:40 — Jim Fazio, Kevin Broderick Peter Davis.
11:30 — Brandon Roberts, Nicholas Roney, David Smith.
11:40 — Andrew Weise, Patrick Thornton, Joe Cimmino.
11:50 — Jim Welch, Chad Stoffer, Tim Potter.
12:00 — Nick Braman, Todd Czepiel, Rob Bigley Jr.
12:10 — Matthew McCaffrey, Alex Olbrych, Joe Fitzimmons.
12:40 — Carol Aiello, Kathy Canestrini, Deb DiMaggio.
12:50 — Anne Poulin, Mary Corrigan, Kathy Duguay.
1:00 — Cherie Bramley, Noreen Leonard, Mary Scatena.
1:10 — Rachel Barlette, Mary Ann Keeler, Nancy Kroll.