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Markovitz, Thatcher post only sub-par rounds at WACO

August 13, 2011|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Jim Markovitz was at the top of the WACO leaderboard last year after the first round.

Things did not change on Saturday.

Late in the day, Markovitz charged into a first-place tie in the 28th WACO Championship in what looks to become a shootout at the Beaver Creek corral.

Markovitz fashioned a 2-under par-70 over the 6,650-yard layout to share the lead with Chuck Thatcher, who was in the early wave of the 154-player field.

Thatcher, of Boonsboro, had the early clubhouse lead by firing a 36-34 for what appeared to be solo leadership of the tournament until Markovitz birdied No. 17 to tie for the lead.

Eight golfers — including defending champion Chris Baloga — are two strokes behind at even-par 72. All told, 16 players are within 3 strokes of the lead heading into today’s final round. Ken Kasai, of Middletown, Md., carded a 1-under 71, matching his previous best first round in the WACO.

After his round, Thatcher went home for a back-soothing experience.

“I tweaked my back at the Shootout Thursday,” said Thatcher. “I’m going to get some stretch and strengthen work on the back. I didn’t really hit the ball that well today.”

Thatcher saved his game on the greens, needing only 22 putts to bolster a solid short game.

“I got everything out of my game that I could,” said Thatcher, who opened with a 70 last year.

Thacher was 1-over after 14 holes after carding bogeys on 12 and 14 before running off a string of birdies to take the lead.

“I was motivated by saving the bogeys, then made a great birdie on 15 and that got me boosted for 16 and 17,” said Thatcher.

Thatcher hit an errant tee shot on 15 to the dry pond area sitting left of the fairway. He eventually knocked a pitching wedge to within five feet of the cup to get a birdie to get back to even par.

“I’m ecstatic with the round,” he said.

After a two-hour rain delay, Markovitz restarted on No. 10 with a double bogey before recovering with birdies at 11, 15 and 17 to get back on track.

“It was one of those crazy days up and down,” said Markovitz. “I hit it all over. Had a lot of scrambling and I capitalized on birdie opportunitties. It was a fun golf course today.”

Kasai was somewhat surprised with his round, which tied his low first-round at WACO.

“I’ve been close to scoring well so today surprised me,” said Kasai. “I scrambled. Made a lot of putts. I chipped in from the fringe on 7. I just want to keep the putter working Sunday and not make mistakes and get any big numbers.”

Baloga used an eagle-3 on the par-5 15th hole to stay in contention. He knocked a 5-iron to about 8 feet of the pin for his eagle.

“I managed OK ... had loose shots everywhere. It was a struggle,” said Baloga.

NOTES: Tournament director Rod Steiner said the course layout would probably stretch to about 6,800 yards today.

“There were tough pin positions (Saturday) but fair overall and (Sunday) will be a little tougher,” he said. “With the pressure of the tournament, it will make putting really tough.”

* Tim Doreen, of Myersville, Md., shot an even-par 72, including three birdies and a pair of eagles along with six “others.” Doreen’s eagles came on par 5s at No. 9 and 15.

* John Bowman, a former Beaver Creek member who lives in North Carolina, played with Thatcher in the first round for a third straight year. In those three rounds, Thatcher has shot 9 under par.

* Former University of Maryland quarterback Chris Kelley displayed his wares with the driver, winning longest drive honors on No. 15 with a poke of 355 yards. He also shot a 2-over 74.

* Saturday’s first round was interrupted for two hours by lightning and rain. The later groups affected by the rain had played at least nine holes before being stopped.

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