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Qualifier Bruce Vaughan makes a run at the lead at Rock Barn

CONOVER Bruce Vaughan hasn’t had the best of seasons on the Champions Tour, and had to play his way into the field for this weekend’s Greater Hickory Kia Classic.

Now Vaughan has played his way into contention for his first win in more than five years, shooting a career-best 8-under 62 during a wet second round Saturday at Rock Barn Golf and Spa.

Vaughan, 57, equaled the second-best round posted on the Champions Tour this season and left him with a two-day total of 7-under 133, three shots behind leader Bernhard Langer.

“This is probably the first time I’ve been able to take my driving range swing to the golf course,” said Vaughan, whose lone career win on the 50-and-over tour came in the 2008 Senior British Open.

“I didn’t play all that bad (Friday), I just wasn’t hitting it that good (in shooting a 1-over 71). But I worked on some things last night, and something finally clicked and it got me to where I want to be on the golf course.”

Getting things clicking has been a problem this year for Vaughan, whose has used a combination of exemptions, qualifying tournaments (five times, including this weekend’s event) and waiting as an alternate to make the field.

However, Vaughan knew that he had some good rounds left, especially after shooting 66 in the Greater Hickory Kia Classic’s qualifying tournament Tuesday.

“I do well on the driving range, then I let bad habits creep back in,” said Vaughan, who had eight birdies Saturday. “I had one shot today that I let that happen on. Outside of that, I didn’t sag on one shot today.”

Langer, second to Kenny Perry in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, opened Saturday’s round with back-to-back bogeys. But the two-time Masters champion recovered with six birdies for a 4-under 66.

“I got off to a really rough start,” said Langer, who leads at 10-under 130. “But I settled down and got a nice run of birdies there, and played pretty decent golf for the most part.”

Langer had a chance to extend his lead over the final three holes, but missed two birdie putts – a 12-footer on No. 16, and an eight-footer on No. 18.

“I hit the putts where I wanted to, they just didn’t go in,” Langer said. “It’s disappointing when you do that. But I’m pleased with the way I came back, especially after that start.”

Three players – Michael Allen (65), Brad Bryant (66) and John Riegger (67) – are two shots behind Langer at 8-under 132. Perry, who holds a 609-point lead over Langer in the standings, was tied for 17th at 3-under 137.

Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: @Bkiser_CLTObs.
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