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BLOCHER RISES TO CHALLENGE AT EAST AURORA

The course at East Aurora Country Club can be a maddening test for the unsuspecting. The rewards for the long hitter are minimal. The quick, undulating greens can be exasperating. Strike a shot a few yards offline and the penalty on some holes can be enormous.

Chris Blocher didn't have the local knowledge that can be so advantageous Sunday while playing in the first East Aurora Tournament of Champions. He had tackled the course just once before, and that was three years ago.

But Blocher, a 23-year-old fifth-year senior at St. Bonaventure, had the perfect antidote: the confidence that comes with a summer of excellent play.

Blocher, who plays out of Bartlett Country Club in Olean, kept himself out of trouble most of the day and shot an even-par 71 to edge Bob Noe Jr. of the Park Club by one stroke in the inaugural season-ending gathering of Western New York's club champions. Thirty-two winners at the club level participated in the event held in conjunction with the Buffalo District Golf Association.

"This is a great honor," Blocher said. "It's a good field and a great idea for them to host the tournament and have the tournament at East Aurora. The course was in great shape. These are probably the best fairways I've ever played on."

Playing in the first group, Blocher set the pace with a birdie on the par-5 3rd hole that brought him to the turn at 1-under 34. He returned to par with a bogey at the par-5 12th, dropped back to 1-under with a birdie at the par-3 13th, and finished at par after a bogey on the par-4 18th when his wedge approach found the trees right of the green.

That was one of his few missteps.

"I hit it extremely well," Blocher said. "I hit 13 of 14 greens (in regulation). When I did miss the greens I got it up and down, with the exception of twice."

Blocher said his game has been in good shape most of the summer, including at the New York State Amateur held at Wanakah Country Club in July. "I lost in the second round, but I played well," he said.

Finishing tied for third Sunday were Tim Hume of Cherry Hill, who has won four straight BDGA titles, and Dick Cole of Conewango Valley Country Club.

Only 14 golfers in the field of 32 broke 80.

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