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Baloga back to defend WACO title

August 11, 2011|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The Super Bowl of Washington County golf is here.

For the 28th year, Beaver Creek Country Club is host to the annual WACO Championship on Saturday and Sunday.

Tournament Director Rod Steiner and head professional Dirk Schultz have the field set for 154 golfers who will tee it up beginning at 6:30 Saturday morning.

Defending champion Chris Baloga leads the field as he looks for his second straight title.

“I remember the great par save from the greenside bunker on 18 last year,” said Baloga. “I had the birdie on 17 to tie and then to win on the final hole was exciting.”

A few days after WACO, Baloga began his duties as the golf coach at Loyola (Md.) University and he has been busy on the recruiting trail again this year.

He was in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, participated in the Lamp’s/Chi-Chi’s Shootout Thursday at Beaver Creek and then has more recruiting business Friday.

Baloga, who plays out of Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Md., said he’s experienced a bit of ‘tennis elbow’ lately and  has played less than any other year since he was 12 years old.

Any elbow problem won’t keep Baloga, who has also finished second in the WACO three times, from making a serious run.

“I still have high expectations,” he said. “I can’t hit hundreds of balls in practice, but I can make use of the time working on the short game.”

On the par-72, 6,700-yard layout, Baloga said his goal is to reach 2-under to start.

“Two of the par 5s (Nos. 9 and 15) are reachable in two,” he said.

Last year, Baloga shot a 2-under-par 70 in the final round and nudged past Jim Markovitz of Pittsburgh with a par putt on the 18th hole for the victory. He finished at 5-under 139 for the tournament.

Markovitz is in the field along with other Washington County notables Greg Henry, Ken Lampard, Chuck Thatcher and Alex Hoffman — all of whom will be in the championship flight.

Including Baloga, there are five defending champions in the field.

Kenny Smith won the title in 2002 and 2007, Kevin Reiber took top honors back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, Finley Benjamin won in 1999 and Henry won in 1984, 1986 and 1989.

Henry remains the only three-time WACO winner.

“The numbers, as far as participation goes, are down, but I think the quality of the field is the best we’ve ever had,” said Steiner.

After Saturday’s first round, golfers will be divided into four flights to compete in Sunday’s final round.

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