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Lonely at the top

Thatcher's birdie binge moves him four shots clear of the field at WACO

Thatcher's birdie binge moves him four shots clear of the field at WACO

August 08, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

Chuck Thatcher is a psychologist in the Frederick County Public Schools.

A few more birdies today and he'll have the rest of the field psyched out in the 26th annual WACO Golf Championship at Beaver Creek Country Club.

Thatcher, who resides in Boonsboro, had a torrid back nine to finish with a 5-under-par 67 and a four-stroke lead following the first round on Saturday.

Only two players in the field of 170 golfers posted red numbers on the par-72, 7,003-yard layout. Brian Crabtree, a Beaver Creek Country Club member from Fairfield, Pa., came in second with a 1-under-par 71.

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Four players -- Ken Lampard of Hagerstown, Carl Childers of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., Chris Baloga of Baltimore and Trevor Hedges of Martinsburg, W.Va. -- came in at even-par 72.

Defending champion Steve Caron opened with a 7-over-par 79, while two-time champion Chad Bricker posted a 2-over 74. Two-time champion Kevin Reiber fashioned a 1-over 73 and two-time champ Kenny Smith shot a 5-over 77. All are from Waynesboro, Pa., and are looking to give the borough an eighth straight WACO title.

The final-round WACO record is a 63, set by Bricker in 2006, and it might take that score in today's final round for anyone behind Thatcher to pose a threat -- unless Thatcher comes back himself.

"I came in hoping to shoot even par," said Thatcher, who is playing in his second WACO.

He surpassed his expectations with a birdie surge that began on the par-5, 520-yard ninth hole that put him at even par for the front nine.

Then came the fireworks. Thatcher drained a five-foot birdie on No. 10 and followed with another on 11 after hitting an approach on the par-5 to within two feet. He knocked in a 20-yard chip on 13 and then drilled an iron from 170 yards to within five feet for a birdie on 14.

For his fifth birdie on the back nine, Thatcher knocked in a birdie putt on the par-5 15th from eight feet. He nearly added another birdie on the par-3 16th with a 30-foot bunker shot before saving par.

"I was a little loose with my ballstriking on the front nine with some wayward irons," said Thatcher. "I just tried to stay focused. I just want to take it swing by swing."

His 31 on the back nine tied a WACO record, as did his five birdies in nine holes.

Crabtree was happy to be on the upper end of the scoreboard as his round was his best-ever opening 18 in the WACO.

"I hit the driver well and my putter worked," said Crabtree, who will be in the final pairing with Thatcher today. "I had some key six-, seven-footers to save par. I got the most out of my round."

He might have been closer to the lead had it not been for bogeys on Nos. 9 and 15, a pair of par 5s.

Lampard was a a little surprised that more scores weren't at par or under, but he left himself in contention with a 2-under 34 on the back nine to get back to par.

"It was a scramble, up and down all day," said Lampard, who hit a 120-yard wedge for an eagle on the par-5 second.

Bricker is no stranger to making a big come-from-behind with his record-breaking performance in 2006.

"I was just sloppy today," he said. "I didn't hit the ball well and didn't take advantage of the par 5s. It'll take a 64 (tomorrow)."

Caron's round was his worst ever in the WACO and starting from the first hole, he wasn't getting any breaks.

"On No. 1, I hit a good drive and the ball landed in a hole and then the next hole I get a kick left and it goes in the trees on my second shot," said Caron. "It just wasn't my day. I was a little shellshocked."

Notes: Ira Pearlman recorded the third hole-in-one in WACO history when he knocked in an iron from 180 yards. ... Later in the day, Brad Weaver posted the fourth hole-in-one on the 162-yard No. 3 ... In addition to Lampard's eagle, Mike Summers scored an eagle-3 on the par-5 15th hole on the way to a 2-under 34 on the back nine. ... Bricker won Friday's Big Daddy's Long Drive with a distance of 324 yards.

WACO Championship

At Beaver Creek Country Club

Par 72, 7,003 yards

Chuck Thatcher 36-31 -- 67

Brian Crabtree 37-34 -- 71

Ken Lampard 38-34 -- 72

Carl Childers 35-37 -- 72

Chris Baloga 35-37 -- 72

Trevor Hedges 37-35 -- 72

Kevin Reiber 37-36 -- 73

Bernie Deane 37-36 -- 73

Chad Bricker 38-36 -- 74

Tim Steiner 36-38 -- 74

Chris Dellinger 39-36 -- 75

Mike Summers 41-34 -- 75

Randy Cree 38-38 -- 76

Clayton Rotz 37-39 -- 76

Ian Elkin 40-36 -- 76

Drew Forrester 39-37 -- 76

Randy Finn 38-38 -- 76

David Boggs 38-38 -- 76

Randy Scott 38-38 -- 76

Chris Bushey 37-39 -- 76

Kenny Smith 41-36 -- 77

Steve Ligi 40-37 -- 77

Jeff Snowden 36-41 -- 77

Harry Troxler 37-40 -- 77

Ken Kasai 38-39 -- 77

Greg Henry 38-39 -- 77

Ross Ellberg 39-38 -- 77

Nick Arington 37-40 -- 77

Josh Spreng 41-36 -- 77

Scott Henry 42-36 -- 78

Dick Wetzel 38-40 -- 78

Harold Blubaugh 40-38 -- 78

Dave Hull 39-39 -- 78

Denny Stoner 43-35 -- 78

David Healy 38-40 -- 78

Andrew Duff 39-39 -- 78

Don Meyer 38-40 -- 78

Brian Fixx 41-37 -- 78

Greg Deck 39-40 -- 79

Kenny Winfield 40-39 -- 79

Jason Ferguson 43-36 -- 79

Mike Michaelangelo 40-39 -- 79

Zach Weber 41-38 -- 79

Brad Weaver 37-42 -- 79

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