Pa. golfers favored to continue WACO Championship domination

August 10, 2007|By TIM KOELBLE

The WACO Championship has been dominated in recent years by Pennsylvania's Franklin County connection.

The past five championships belong to Waynesboro golfers and there's a good possibility that the Keystone State will be well represented in the 24th WACO this weekend.

Chad Bricker has won the last two titles, Kevin Reiber won in 2003 and 2004 and Kenny Smith won in 2002. All three will be in the field of 172 players when the first group tees off at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

"I think there are maybe 20 serious contenders," said tournament director Rod Steiner. "They're all big hitters, big off the tee and they'll throw darts at the greens with 9-irons and wedges."


Also on the list of potential favorites from Pennsylvania are Waynesboro's Steve Caron, who lost in a playoff to Bricker two years ago, and Chambersburg's Clayton Rotz, who Monday qualified for the U.S. Amateur in San Francisco on Aug. 20-25.

"I played this week with (Reiber, Smith and Rotz) and Clayton shot a 66 at Penn National," said Beaver Creek pro Dirk Schultz. "If someone doesn't go nuts, I think there is a chance of someone like Greg Henry being in there."

Schultz said former champion Chuck Ingram played well at Beaver Creek on Wednesday.

Even veteran Ken Lampard, a four-time fourth-place finisher from Hagerstown, has to be considered if his game is working off the tees.

"You just don't know what will happen in golf," said Lampard. "I hope one of us guys comes in here, mixes it up and makes it interesting."

Last year, Bricker shattered WACO records when he shot a second-round, 9-under-par 63 - which included a record 10 birdies - to finish with a tournament record total of 8-under par.

"I really have the same confidence this year that I had coming in last year," Bricker said. "I'm hitting the ball well off the tee and that's usually my weakness.

"I think you have to take advantage of drives in the fairways because the greens are soft and receptive," he said. "If I'm in the fairway, I'll work on taking some spin off on the greens and go at the flag."

Beaver Creek, which will play to 6,700 yards and par 72, is in its best condition in recent memory.

"Fairways are receptive if players drive it straight," said Schultz. "If one of the kids shoot 65s, they're going to win. It used to be Beaver Creek defending itself and par was a good score to win, but not now with the length of the youngsters."

Rotz, making his first WACO appearance, is the youngest in the batch of pre-tournament favorites. He'll turn 19 on Aug. 17, just days before heading to Louisiana State University for his freshman campaign.

"It's a compliment to be noticed outside of Pennsylvania," said Rotz. "I played two weeks ago at Beaver Creek and I like the layout. The course is a little shorter with some holes that have a narrow setup. It's not a course that you can hit it as far as you want on every hole. You want to get good angles to the greens because they are receptive."

Like an all-star foursome that might include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, the highlighted foursome on Saturday's schedule could be the 9:20 group of Reiber, Smith, Rotz and Kenny Winfield. Just 10 minutes behind will be Bricker, Henry, Lampard and Brandon Hendrickson.

Winners will be crowned in three flights in addition to the championship flight.

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