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New leader, old formula

Markovitz uses Bricker's methods to take WACO's first-round lead

August 15, 2010|By TIM KOELBLE
  • Alex Hoffman reacts to sinking a birdie putt on the 18th hole to complete Saturday's first round in the WACO Championship.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer,

Chad Bricker won three WACO Championships, the most recent was one year ago before he turned professional.

His influence was still on display Saturday, thanks to one of his Penn State University colleagues in the opening round of the 27th edition of the tournament at Beaver Creek Country Club.

Jim Markovitz, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, fired a 4-under-par 68 to take the first round on a day in which five players shot subpar rounds.

Alex Hoffman, from Middletown, Md. who will be a freshman at the University of Memphis beginning Aug. 24 and Chris Baloga, of Towson, Md., were one shot behind at 69. Chuck Thatcher, of Boonsboro, was 2-under with a 70, followed by Bill Calhoun at 1-under 71.

"I talked to (Bricker) Friday night after a practice round here and got some tips," said Markovitz, who highlighted his round with an eagle-3 on the par-5 15th hole. He also had four birdies as he capped his round with a back-nine 33.

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"I pretty much hit driver everywhere and went for it," said Markovitz. "I'll take the same approach Sunday, pretty much 'Bricker-style.'"

Markovitz teed off nearly three hours after Hoffman and Thatcher and two hours after Baloga as 170 players competed on the 6,487-yard course.

Baloga, who finished in a second-place tie last year, had a chance to set a higher standard when he went through his first 16 holes at 5-under.

But a pair of bogeys on the two closing holes set him back to 3-under, to match Hoffman.

"My goal for the first round was to come out and shoot no worse than 72," said Hoffman, who carded five birdies. "With the rain the course became a little soft, so that gave me the opportunity to fly the ball at the pins."

Hoffman reached 3-under with a sliding left-to-right putt from 15 feet on the dogleg left 18th hole.

"Sunday, come out, play the same, make smart decisions," said Hoffman.

Thatcher hopes to avoid recent history in order to contend today.

Last year, he shot an opening-round 67 to take a four-shot lead but saw it whittle away when his 77 couldn't stand up to a charging 65 from Bricker.

"I really played awful today, but I got everthing out of the round I could possibly get," said Thatcher. "My irons were all over the place. Chipping saved me and I was 3-under on the par 5s."

Following his round, Thatcher immediately went to the driving range for some practice.

"Sunday it's a focus on timing and tempo," he said.

Smithsburg graduate Chris Bushey carded an even-par 72.

Markovitz, Hoffman and Baloga will be in the final round today, expecting to tee off at around 1:30 p.m.

It's likely that the long run of champions that hail from Waynesboro, Pa., has come to an end after eight straight years.

Steve Caron, the 2008 champion, carried the Waynesboro banner this weekend but had a tough opening round with a 79.

After Saturday's round, players were flighted according to handicap. In addition to the championship flight, there will be champions in three other flights today.

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