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Baloga runs by runner-up spot to take WACO crown

August 16, 2010|By TIM KOELBLE
  • Alex Hoffman chips onto the 15th green during Sunday's final round of the WACO Championship.
Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer,

Three times a bridesmaid no more. Chris Baloga is finally a WACO champion.

The 26-year-old from Towson, Md., weathered a faulty start and rebounded with a clutch birdie putt down the stretch that catapulted him to the 27th WACO Championship winners' circle on Sunday at Beaver Creek Country Club.

Baloga birdied the 17th hole from eight feet to forge a deadlock with first-round leader Jim Markovitz at 5-under and then parred the finishing 18th while Markovitz bogeyed.

"I've been hitting the ball so well and did so again," said Baloga. "I always enjoy coming to Beaver Creek."

Baloga, who will travel to Seattle to compete in U.S. Amateur beginning Aug. 23, finished the day at 2-under 70 for a two-day score of 5-under 139. After the Amateur, he will begin his duties as the new head golf coach at Loyola (Md.) University.

Markovitz, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, finished with a 72 and one shot back at 140. Middletown's Alex Hoffman shot a 2-over 74 for a 143 to finish in a third-place tie with Boonsboro's Chuck Thatcher, who posted a 1-over 73.

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Baloga blasted a driver and then hit a lob wedge 80 yards to go beyond the pin at 17, a difficult uphill approach from inside 90 yards to a sloped green.

Heading to 18, Markovitz's ball sat in a divot off his drive some 160 yards from the green while Baloga sat about 138.

Markovitz pull-hooked his approach nearly 30 yards wide left of the green while Baloga, after seeing Markovitz' shot, went center cut and pin high with a right-to-left sliding putt.

"If (Markovitz) is near the pin, I go at it myself, but when he was off the green I shot for the center," said Baloga.

Markovitz chipped past the pin and his par putt lipped the cup. Baloga followed with his birdie putt that skimmed 1 foot past the hole, which he converted for par after Markovitz made his bogey.

"I was in a divot but went after it on the shot," said Markovitz. "I went after it today, there were some tough pins."

Baloga started with two bogeys in his first four holes that dropped him to 1 under, but he never lost the edge.

"I knew there was a lot of golf left to play, so I didn't want to force anything," said Baloga. "A few years ago (those bogeys) would have rattled me."

After the par-5 11th hole, Baloga, Markovitz and Hoffman -- in the same threesome -- were deadlocked at 4-under.

However, Hoffman's drive on the dogleg left No. 12 sprayed to the right. A punchout on an impossible chip and a three-putt left Hoffman with a double-bogey.

Hoffman, who now heads to the University of Memphis, saw any shot at catching up fade on the par-5 15th with a par while his competitors each posted birdie.

"After 12 I just couldn't find it from there," said Hoffman. "I feel like I let the club and the area down."

Baloga's victory ended a string of eight consecutive years in which the WACO champion has hailed from Waynesboro, Pa.

Other champions crowned included Todd Parks (75 -- 154) in the second flight, Jim Grumbine (77--163) in the third flight and Todd Saylor (78 -- 168) in the fourth flight.

Sunday's best round was a 4-under 68 by Denny Stoner, matching Saturday's 68 by Markovitz.

Tom Lonergan, of Vienna, Va., who is a member at Musket Ridge (Md.) Golf Club, tied a WACO record with four consecutive birdies on holes 7 through 10.

WACO Championship

At Beaver Creek Country Club

Par 72, 6,487 yards

Sunday

Championship Flight

Chris Baloga 69-70--139

Jim Markovitz 68-72--140

Chuck Thatcher 70-73--143

Alex Hoffman 69-74--143

Keegan Boone 73-70--143

Brent Martin 75-69--144

Bill Calhoun 71-75--146

Finley Benjamin 76-72--148

David Boggs 74-74--148

Chris Bushey 72-76--148

Denny Stoner 81-68--149

Josh Spreng 77-72--149

Greg Henry 79-71--150

Jordan Steinfelder 78-72--150

Matt O'Shrine 77-73--150

Dave Daubach 76-74--150

Danny Hathaway 79-72--151

Pat Steiner 77-74--151

Bernie Deane 77-74--151

Blair Kennedy 77-74--151

Ken Jee 76-75--151

Darren Weaver 77-75--152

Brian Crabtree 77-75--152

Alex Church 76-76--152

Mark Vandegrift 74-78--152

Randy Barnes 74-78--152

Neil Shannon 73-79--152

Tracy Piper 73-78--153

Jim Austin 79-75--154

Harry Troxler 77-77--154

Steve Castro 73-81--154

Steve Caron 79-76--155

Mike Revak 77-78--155

Ken Winfield 76-79--155

Jesse Hoffman 73-82--155

Ken Lampard 80-76--156

Bill Kushay 79-77--156

Anthony Moots 79-77--156

Andrew Duff 78-78--156

David Healy 77-79--156

Ken Kasai 80-77--157

A.J. Edmontson 78-79--157

Eduardo Gerlein 75-82--157

Jason Ferguson 83-75--158

Brandon Hendrickson 80-78--158

Greg Buliga 79-79--158

Zach Weber 79-80--159

Caleb Hudlow 81-78--159

Barclay Baile 75-84--159

Jeff Snowden 82-78--160

Ross Ellberg 77-83--160

Craig Borst 77-84--161

Ian Elkin 83-79--162

Donald Meyer 80-82--162

Drew Forrester 78-84--162

Brendan Borst 86-77--163

Tim Steiner 81-84--165

J.P. Aliveto 86-80--166

Roy Lorsbaugh 74-WD

Steve Hutzell 81-WD

Bob Lentz 81-WD

Second Flight

Todd Parks 79-75--154

Robbie Suddith 78-77--155

Chris Dellinger 78-78--156

Kevin Simmers 78-79--157

Tink Moats 80-77--157

Matt Hess 80-77--157

Jon Mann 78-79--157

Chris Mullen 87-71--158

Justin Neikirk 79-79--158

Gary Thomey 78-80--158

Rod Steiner 79-80--159

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