SCHENECTADY — First-round leader and defending Schenectady Senior Classic champion Jim Mueller had a target on his back. He also had a target score in mind for the final round. As usual, he hit a bullseye.
Mueller clinched his fifth title in this event with a second straight 4-under-par 68 to hold off a charging Paul Pratico Friday at Schenectady Municipal. Mueller’s 8-under-par 136 total gave him a five-shot lead over the four-time titlist Pratico, who bounced back from a 74 Thursday with the day’s low round, a 67.
Mueller and Pratico have dominated the Schenectady Classic and Schenectady Senior Classic by combining for nine senior crowns and 15 open division titles.
“I had a target score of another 68 today. If I shot that, I figured somebody would have to shoot an incredible score to beat me,” said Mueller. “I didn’t really know where I stood, but I figured Paul and some of other guys in front of me were playing well, and if any one of them got it going, it could get close.”
It didn’t. Mueller rebounded from a slow start to post five birdies.
“I missed short birdie putts on the first and second hole, and then I shanked a 9-iron on the third hole, resulting in my only bogey,” Mueller said, “I thought it wasn’t going to be a very good day. But then I hit a good iron in close on No. 4 for one birdie, and another solid iron on No. 7 for another birdie. That’s when I thought I got my game back a little.”
Despite Mueller’s dominance in Schenectady Muni events, he hasn’t played well this season by his own standards.
“I took some time off from golf in May to do some other things, but that was only a month. When I started playing again, my irons were awful all summer,” Mueller said. “And my wedge game, usually one of my strengths, wasn’t stellar either. My entire short game wasn’t as good as it usually is.”
But this week, Mueller figured out something to allow him to add to his already overflowing trophy case.
“It definitely was a shaky start, but then I played really well until I made a poor tee shot on the 12th hole. My hand slipped off my driver, and I hit the ball to the right. But I was still able to make a par out of it.”
Mueller was asked if winning ever gets old.
“I’m still trying to win every time I tee it up,” he said. “I think I can win another regular Schenectady Classic or two, as well. This season, I didn’t play well in that event. But it’s always cool to win. That’s why we play the game.”
Pratico bounced back from his mediocre round Thursday to make things interesting for a while. He hung around the 18th hole waiting to see how Mueller finished up.
“I played good this week, and I was hitting the ball great,” said the former pro. “I knew I needed a 64 or something like that to beat Jimmy. He doesn’t usually give away too many shots.”
Pratico eagled the 12th hole to go along with birdies on the fifth, seventh and 16th holes
Paul Hart (71-144) finished third, one stroke ahead of Mike Mina (74-145) and former champion Mike Carroll (73-145). Rounding out the leaders were Dave Smith (70-147), Dan Conway (70-147), Bob Cooper (74-147), Kevin Broderick (76-147) and Ron Cohen (77-147).
Mario Marino won the super senior division (70 years and older) with a 73-148, to edge first-round leader Woody Winslow (79-151) by three shots. The super seniors played from the gold tees.
Jim Mueller 68-136, Paul Pratico 67-141, Paul Hart 71-144, Mike Carroll 73-145, Mike Mina 74-145, Dave Smith 70-147, Dan Conway 70-147, Bob Cooper 74-147, Kevin Broderick 76-147, Ron Cohen 77-148, Dave Sutphen 72-149, Tim Bean 75-149, Tony Cristello 79-149, Mike Drake 75-150, Kenny Hall 75-150, Jay Taub 77-150, Mark Compton 76-152, Paul Toth 77-154, Kevin Dwyer 78-154, Glenn Stopera 79-155, Mike Salvatore 77-155, Dave DeMarco 79-156, Sal Romano 82-158, Rich Sniffen 84-159, Jim Fazio 84-161.
Mario Marino 73-148, Woody Winslow 79-151, Peter Andrikopoulos 78-154, Don Blaha 78-154, Jim Reid 78-154, Ron Anzalone DNS.