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Eagle lands Smith atop WACO field

August 13, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

Kenny Smith fashioned a walk to the cup on the 15th green similar to those by Tiger Woods when he's on a roll.

Smith, known as the "Mighty Munchkin," had his fist forward as he charged to pick up his golf ball after sinking a 15-foot eagle putt, the highlight of his sterling 5-under-par 67 Saturday in the first round of the 23rd WACO Championship on Saturday at Beaver Creek Country Club.

"The greens rolled good and I made some putts," said Smith, the 2002 WACO champion from Waynesboro, Pa.

Known for his long drives, including a 351-yard bomb in Friday's Long Drive competition, the 5-foot-6 Smith used his big weapon to set up a 6-iron on 15.

"The driver was still a little crooked today," said Smith, who used it only on six holes, leaning more toward his 4-wood off the tee.

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Smith takes a two-stroke lead into today's final pairing with John Kingora and Kevin Reiber, which goes off at 1:50 p.m.

Kingora, a Montgomery County resident, shot an early-morning 3-under 69 and Reiber, a two-time WACO champion, delivered a 2-under 70.

Others in the hunt include David Boggs (71) of Shepherdstown, W.Va., Brian Crabtree (72) of Hagerstown and Steve Caron (72) of Waynesboro. Defending champion Chad Bricker opened with a 1-over par 73.

Reiber, who was paired with Smith on Saturday, was 2-under and one stroke ahead of Smith through the first eight holes.

Both birdied the par-5 11th hole and Reiber got to 4-under with a birdie, then watched Smith do his magic for an eagle-3 to forge a tie.

Smith took control with a birdie on 18, finishing off with a 20-foot putt while Reiber had bogeys on 16 and 18.

When Smith won in 2002, he opened with a 67 and followed with a 70 for a tournament-record 7-under 137.

"My game revolves around my drives and I'll still come out (today) and try to hit it straight," said Smith, who credits his distance to strong hands and a lot of upper body turn.

During the WACO, it has been tough to put together back-to-back rounds under par. If Smith does so today, he'll have a new tournament record.

"I have to go after the record, but the first thing is to win," he said. "If (the record) happens, that's good."

Reiber had six birdies and only one bogey before dropping two shots on the final three holes.

"It was a little frustrating with the finish, but I'm a second-day player and don't mind coming from behind," said Reiber, who won his title in 2004 after trailing by four strokes after the first day.

Bricker, in one of the early groups among the field of 174, went 36-37 in his round and promised himself he would attack more today.

"I didn't hit the driver that well and so I didn't hit the greens like I wanted," said Bricker, who won the Pennsylvania Amateur last week. "I didn't do well on the par 5s (even-par). I'll be more aggressive."

In addition to those golfers in today's championship flight, scores from the first round also placed players vying for titles in Flights 1, 2 and 3.

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