Last year was good enouogh to share the first-round lead with eventual winner Jim Markovitz. This year, Thatcher hopes to eliminate the second-round blues.
The 29th edition WACO Open tees off on Saturday at 6:30 a.m. with 148 golfers perusing the 6,650-yard layout of Beaver Creek Country Club.
A disappointing 75 took Thatcher out of contention, but he bounced back and rediscovered his game to win the Frederick City Amateur weeks later.
“I’ve forgotten what happened (Sunday) last year,” said Thatcher. “I’ve used that as a learning experience.
“I’ve undergone some swing changes, looking for more consistency in all areas. It’s taken a lot of work.”
While a rain-free weekend might not be guaranteed, one thing is: There will be a new WACO Champion.
Markovitz, from Pittsburgh, has turned professional since his victory. Even Chris Baloga, the 2010 champ, won’t be in the field as he will concentrate on the Maryland Mid-Amateur Monday and Tuesday.
Washington County representation in the victory club has been absent since 1999 when Finley Benjiman won. From 2002-09, golfers from the Waynesboro, Pa., area finished first.
Beaver Creek club pro Dirk Schultz said players such as Thatcher, Randy Barnes and Ray Sheedy are on the “pick-’ems” list to win.
Three-time champion Greg Henry is in the field along with other former champions, Benjamin and Drew Forrester.
“It’s a smaller field but I think there is more quality throughout,” said tournament director Rod Steiner. “As usual there will be tough pin placements, especially with slower greens.”
Schultz predicts that players with a good iron game will succeed.
“There is fully grown rough, it’s not brown,” said Schultz. “The ball won’t roll as deep into the rough.”
With the regular stream of hot days, Beaver Creek has protected the greens, leaving them slower than normal, which will make them receptive with crisp irons.
“I think putting will be easier because they’ve been protected,” said Schultz.
After Saturday’s round, players will be placed into the second, third and fourth flights in addition to the championship flight.
The single-round scoring record of 9-under-par 63 and the tournament scoring mark of 136 are both held by Bricker, each set in 2006.
29th WACO Championship