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Reiber gears to defend his WACO title

August 13, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Only once in the 20-year history of the WACO golf championship has a champion successfully defended his title.

Greg Henry and Chuck Ingram hold multiple titles, but Alan Zimmerman is the only golfer that defended when he backed up his 1996 title.

Kevin Reiber will be out to perform the difficult repeat task at Beaver Creek Country Club when the WACO tournament begins Saturday with 178 players taking aim at the 6,600-yard, par-72 layout, weather permitting.

Reiber, the 17-year-old scholastic star who will begin his senior season shortly at Waynesboro (Pa.) High School, surprised not only himself but the remainder of the field last August when he capped off an unlikely championship run.

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The Pennsylvania state prep champion opened with a first-round 68 and followed with a 73 for a 3-under-par 141, one stroke better than his good friend, Kenny Smith, on a pressure-packed Sunday that saw Reiber fend off challenges from four fast-closing golfers. A knee-knocking, par-saving putt on the 18th hole gave Reiber the title he least expected.

"There will be pressure ... the expectations from everyone for me to be there again," Reiber said. "I certainly didn't expect to win coming in last year. Right now, I feel like my game is getting closer to where it was at the end of last year. I'm hitting the ball well, and getting some putts to drop will be a key."

Tournament director Rod Steiner said the course conditions have improved over the last few weeks, but the layout would be toughened with pin placements that will prove difficult, especially on Sunday.

"The pins will be a front-and-back situation," Steiner said. "Someone that knows how to run the ball will help themselves. A lot of times players are freewheeling the first day, but the second day they are watching the scoreboard and not taking as many chances."

Golfers tee off both days beginning at 6:20 a.m. The final pairings will begin around 2:20 p.m. Sunday.

Notes: The only past champions in the 2004 field are Reiber, Smith, Ingram, Henry and Finley Benjamin. ... There have been 16 different champions in 20 years. ... Henry has won three times and is the all-time money leader with $2,928 in earnings. ... WACO has some international flavor with Paul Gentzel, from Sydney, Australia, and Oyvind Petterson, from Norway, competing. ... Dixie McNaney and her entourage of helpers will be running the scoring tent for the 20th, and final, year. ... Smith is the only player to go under 140 for two rounds, firing a tourney-record 137 to win in 2002. ... No player has ever shot under 70 in the final round and nobody has ever, at any time during the tournament, reached double figures under par. Smith reached 9-under at one point in the 2002 tournament.

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