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Smith takes back his throne at WACO

August 13, 2007|By TIM KOELBLE

The "Mighty Munchkin" has returned to the championship throne of the WACO golf tournament.

A winner of the WACO in 2002 and a contender year in, year out, Kenny Smith emerged from a knotted pack of players who looked as if they would send the 24th edition of the tournament to a playoff Sunday.

With five players - Smith, Kevin Farrell, Kevin Reiber, Clayton Rotz and Denny Stoner - locked in a scoreboard battle at 2-under par at one point on the back nine, Smith, the 5-foot-7 long-hitting dynamo from Waynesboro, Pa., electrified onlookers with an approach shot to the 18th hole that had the pin all covered.

When the ball landed and stopped, it was 4 feet away, giving Smith a little glider left to right. He used most of the right side of the cup before it disappeared, the birdie moving him to 1-under-par 71 for the round and 1-over 145 for the tournament.

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He needed to wait until the three final groups came in, including Reiber and Adam Frank, but the damage had been done and Smith regained the WACO trophy, the sixth straight year it has gone to a Waynesboro-area player.

After a 2-over 74 on Saturday, Smith wasn't exactly sure of his chances on Sunday.

"Before the round started, I thought they were good because my drives flew straight on the range," said Smith. "After I hit my first shot of the day, I thought I had a chance, and then I birdied No. 3 and that got me into the round."

Smith had four birdies on the back nine, but three of them were followed with a lost shot.

"I guess I'm fortunate I didn't have to play another hole after 18," said Smith. "I got some good breaks on the front nine but then missed a stupid putt on 14, and I thought that was the end for me."

However, Smith regrouped for a birdie on the par-5 15th after missing an 18-foot putt for eagle. He then went back to 2-over with a bogey on 16, had a par on 17 and then left his tee shot on 18 about 140 feet from the pin, setting the stage for high drama over sun-drenched Beaver Creek Country Club.

"I had some nerves out there," he said. "It's a grind going out there trying to beat these young college and high school kids."

Farrell and Rotz both ended at 2-over-par 146, Ken Kasai shot a 70 and Randy Barnes shot a 72 as each tied at 3-over-par 147. Reiber and Frank each ended at 4-over 148, along with Mike Printz, who carded a 71 following a 77 on Saturday. Stoner faded to a 5-over-par 149.

First-round leader Pat Steiner, president and CEO of Beaver Creek, slipped to a 78 and finished at 5-over 149. He tied with defending champion Chad Bricker, whose 71 Sunday included a nifty eagle on the par-4 13th with a chip-in following a 345-yard drive.

Rotz, of Chambersburg, Pa., who's set to begin his freshman year at LSU after a trip to San Francisco this week for the U.S. Amateur, fired a 4-under-par 68 on Sunday, easily the best round of the tournament over Beaver Creek's 6,700-yard, par-72 layout.

"My goal was to not make bogeys and I was patient and not forcing anything," said Rotz. "I had some good up-and-down saving pars. I thought coming in shooting 4-under might be good."

Steiner's round started astray when he made bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7. Even after a pulled hook on an approach shot on No. 11 cost him a birdie, a fine birdie on the par-5 15th still left him in contention until he finished with a double bogey on 18.

"Tee shots on those holes (6 and 7) cost me, and the shot on 11 got me in a hole," said Steiner. "But overall, I'm happy I had a chance."

Todd Butts shot a 75 on Sunday, following an 80 on Saturday, for an 11-over-par 155 to win the second flight; Don Tapley carded a 78 for a 168 and third-flight honors; and Dennis Swope won the fourth flight with an 87 for a 179.

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