Down The Fairway: Pratico puts game in tournament mode
Tournament golf is simply not the same as recreational golf.
It sounds like a simple statement, but the area’s top scratch players know there is a big difference in trying to hit a tee shot, approach shot, chip, pitch or putt when the tournament is on the line.
That’s why Paul Pratico makes it a point to start gearing up for his few major tournaments, which these days are strictly limited to the Gazette County Amateur, held in June, and the Gazette Senior
County Amateur, scheduled for Thursday and Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Pratico, a five-time winner of the Gazette County Am, won his first Gazette Senior County Amateur a year ago, and he’s primed to defend his title.
“I started practicing hard again this week, and it feels pretty good,” said the 51-year-old former pro, whose solid all-around game
always keeps him around the top of the leaderboard. “Overall, I feel pretty good health-wise. Physically, I’m better than I was in the regular County Am. I’m a little leaner and more fit. I’m ready to go.”
Due to family obligations and his work schedule, Pratico doesn’t play in many tournaments these days. In fact, except for last month’s Mohawk Member-Guest, all he’s played in has been some recreational rounds. He was scheduled to play in the Eagle Crest Shootout, which changed to a best-ball format this year, but his partner from out of town couldn’t make it in time, so he pulled out.
“I was really happy with the way I struck the ball at the Mohawk
Member-Guest. There were some tricky pin placements, and the greens over there were totally different than what I’m used to,” he said. “They were very fast. Unless you play there all the time, it is hard to find the right line.
“But I’ve been playing a lot of recreational golf, and it’s been fun. The problem is that not playing in tournament mode can hurt you. There is a big difference when the putts count. Recreational golf is different, so that’s why I try to put something on the line when I play, just to put some pressure into it. You lose a little bit of your mental game when you are not playing in competition. In a tournament, if you are in the lead or near the lead, the nerves kick in. When you haven’t been there in a while, you have to refresh your memory and try to play smarter shots.”
Pratico, who works at Golf Galaxy, steps up his practice schedule on and around Schenectady Municipal’s putting greens.
“I do a lot more chipping and putting. You can usually see me over at Muny’s practice greens late at night, knocking in three- or four-footers so that they become automatic for me.
“There is a little more pressure on me coming back to defend than there was when I was playing in the Senior County Am for the first time,” Pratico said. “I want to make sure I’m prepared and ready to make a good showing. There are always a lot of good players in this tournament.”
Pratico said that despite his love for competing in the two County Amateur events, his priorities have shifted.
“There are times I wish I was playing more golf, but with all the family commitments and stuff like that, it hasn’t worked out,” he said.
“Also, my son is now in the professional golf program, and it has motivated me to play more with him and try to get his game sharp.
“I would like to play in tournaments like the New York State Amateur, but I only play in them when they are close to home. Trying to travel to play against the young 20-year-old kids is too hard physically for me. I can’t wait until
I’m 55, because then I can play in the New York State Senior Amateur.”
Don’t be surprised to see Pratico among the leaders once again this week. He’ll be joined by other former champions, including Mike Carroll, Al Nebolini, Tony Cristello, Neil Golub and Andy Long.
Other likely contenders include Keith Gillespie, Jay Taub, Mario Marino, Henry Morgan, Jim Follain and Mike Mina.
The top 20 and ties gross
advance to the final round on Friday. The net champions will be
determined on Thursday in the 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus age divisions.
Jim Mueller, the seven-time County Amateur champion who was the runner-up in last year’s Senior County Am, is not playing because he is recuperating from double knee surgery last month.
Mike Bayus, a three-time County Am winner who competes in both Gazette tournaments every year, is not playing because of a scheduling conflict with his annual golfing trip to the Dick’s Open on the Champions Tour in Binghamton. He and a group of old friends go every year to see Champions Tour member Wayne Levi.
RUSSO EXCELS AGAIN
It’s no surprise that Dan Russo of Rolling Hills at Antlers won
another major qualifier this week.
The 54-year-old long hitter shot an even-par 72 and shared medalist honors with Garren Poirier of Green Mountain National at the
local qualifier for the U.S. Mid-
Amateur Championship Wednesday at Albany Country Club.
Both Russo and Poirier advance to the U.S. Mid-Amateur, to be held at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill., Sept. 8-13.
It was the sixth USGA event that Russo has qualified for.
The Mid-Amateur is for players 25 and older.
“It’s always wonderful to qualify for a USGA event,” said Russo, who has won multiple Capital Region Amateur Golf Association player of the year awards to go along with most of the other top local events, including the CRAGA Stroke Play Championship and the Troy Invitational.
“I didn’t start playing seriously until late in life. It’s always very good when you make a USGA event. It’s always something
special,” said Russo, who lost in a playoff to Jim Gifford at this week’s Edison Invitational.
“I thought Albany Country Club was set up quite difficult for the qualifier. Every single tee was back, and the pin placements were difficult. But I usually play well at Albany. It’s an excellent course,” Russo said.
u The Northeastern Women’s Golf Association will crown its individual champion today and Monday at Western Turnpike Golf Club. Mary Ellen Burt of Mohawk Golf Club is the defending champion.
u Pinehaven Country Club will host the UAlbany Slam Dunk Golf Classic, to benefit the UAlbany men’s basketball team, on Sept. 10.
Entry fee is $199 a player, and
includes golf, cart, driving range, lunch, beverages and snacks on the course and a buffet dinner after golf. For more information, contact Jerrad Knotts at 442-3036.
u The Eastern New York Golf Association’s weekly tournament will be held at Kingswood Links Wednesday.
u Alex Kinkaid of the eClub Capital District shot a 74-148 to finish fifth in the junior division of the New York State Junior Amateur
at Mark Twain Golf Course in Elmira.
Aaron Simone of Pinehaven CC was 10th with a 74-150. In the boys’ division, Tanner Donovan of Wolferts Roost CC shot an 83-168 for 17th, Alex Bond of Amsterdam Municipal shot an 86-170 for 19th and Kyle Adams of The Edison Club shot a an 88-178 for 22nd. Grace Ziamandanis of Albany CC was the top local player in the girls’ division with an 81-164 for 10th place.
u Local club pros from the Northeastern New York PGA will conduct the Senior Stroke Play Championship Tuesday at Wyantenuck Country Club.
u Saratoga National Golf Club will host the fifth annual Teeing Off on Cancer Golf Classic, to benefit Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society,
Aug. 27. Entry fee is $250, and
includes golf, cart, lunch and dinner.
Contact Darren Bennett (580-5363) or Michele Mack (454-4054) for more information.
u The Rotterdam Pop Warner Golf Outing will be held Saturday at Briar Creek. Cost is $95 per player, and includes lunch, an hour of beverages and a steak bake. The tournament is a four-man scramble format, beginning at 1. Call Renee at 469-4463 for more information.
u Stadium Golf Club will host the 12th annual Dick Roberts Memorial Golf Tournament Sept. 8. Presented by the Dutchmen Gridiron Club, proceeds will support the Union College football program. Entry fee is $160, and includes lunch, golf gifts and a 3 p.m. buffet, raffle and live auction. Call Gary Reynolds at 388-6548 for more information.
u The Union College Golf/Basketball Fundraiser will be held at Mohawk Golf Club Sept. 24 at noon. Entry fee is $550 per team, and includes lunch at 11 a.m. and appetizers and awards following golf. The format is either two best balls of four or a scramble. It’s your choice. Contact Mary Ellen Burt at 388-6546 for more information.
u The Peter Famiano Memorial Golf Tournament will be held
Sept. 9, at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. There will be a continental breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by a scramble with a shotgun start at 9. There will be gross and net winners. The cost is $300 per foursome, and includes greens fees, cart, continental breakfast and buffet following golf. Interested golfers can sign up by calling Bob Pezzano at 346-9297 before Aug. 24. The tournament will be limited to 30 foursomes. The event is held in honor of Peter Famiano, a member of the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame.
u The PGA of America presented the 2012 PGA Distinguished Service Award to two-time PGA champion Dave Stockton Sr. on Wednesday. The PGA Distinguished Service Award, inaugurated in 1988,
honors outstanding individuals who display leadership and humanitarian qualities, including integrity, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for the game of golf.
Brian Striecher aced the 110-yard seventh hole with a 9-iron at Whispering Pines Golf Course.
David Fink holed out with a pitching wedge on the 110-yard seventh hole at Briar Creek Golf Course.
At Schenectady Municipal, Jack Lyons aced the 136-yard 13th hole with a 5-iron.
Madison Braman registered a hole-in-one on the 135-yard 12th hole with a 7-iron en route to winning the Shaker Ridge Country Club ladies’ club championship.
Mike Barberi hit a driver for his hole-in-one on the 195-yard 17th hole at Orchard Creek.
Frank Koscielniak holed out with a wedge from 90 yards to eagle the 321-yard, par-4 16th hole at Airway Meadows Golf Club.
At Mechanicville Golf Club, Don Daley eagled the par-4 fifth hole with a 9-iron.
Also at Mechanicville GC, Tom McBride eagled the par-5 fifth hole with a wedge while playing in the Frog Island league.
Bob Gutowski (third hole), Rob O’Brien (fifth hole), Yong Son (fifth hole), Jeff Cornell (12th hole) and Mike Demars (18th hole) recorded eagles at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.
Jack McDonald eagled the par-4 eighth hole from 148 yards at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
At Eagle Crest, Steve Filak eagled the 18th hole while playing in the Bells Boys league.