Eaks shoots 66, leads Greater Hickory Classic

CONOVER, N.C. -- R.W. Eaks broke one tournament record and tied another Saturday to take a three-stroke lead over Canada's Rod Spittle after the second round of the Greater Hickory Classic.

Eaks ended a long day at Rock Barn Golf and Spa with a second-round 66 for a 15-under 129 total, shattering the event record by three strokes and finishing one shot shy of the Champions Tour's best 36-hole score this season.

Eaks, whose first Champions Tour win came at the Dick's Sporting
Goods Open in July, tied the tournament record with an 9-under 63 earlier Saturday to finish the rain-delayed opening round.

"Two days ago, I wasn't sure if I was going to play,'' said Eaks, who was forced to withdraw from last week's event at Pebble Beach, Calif., after spraining his right knee. "But I'm pretty speechless right now. Other than No. 17, it was a pretty flawless day for me. ... My putts just started going in, and I got on a roll.''

Eaks had a double bogey at 17.

"I can't remember the last time I played 36 holes in one day -- it was probably ages ago. But that cart helped me out. ... If it wasn't for the carts, I probably couldn't play here at all because this is such a tough course to walk.''

Spittle, a journeyman pro making just his 13th start in three years on the 50-and-over tour, was 12 under after rounds of 68 and 64 -- a career best.

The opening round was suspended Friday after the remnants of Hurricane Humberto dumped more than 3 inches of rain on Rock Barn's Jones course. Only 54 of 78 players had teed off Friday when play was called, with Spittle the leader at 3 under through five holes.

"The course drained amazingly well,'' said Spittle, whose best Champions Tour finish is a tie for sixth place in Birmingham, Ala., in May. "The greens were still a little soft, but the course was in great shape. ... I was able to play rock-solid the whole way. I don't think I was close to making a bogey.''

In all, nine players are within eight strokes of Eaks. Following Spittle was Scott Simpson (69) at 10 under, and D.W. Weibring (66) and Champions Tour leader Jay Haas (65) at 9 under. Dana Quigley (66), Tim Conley (71), Bob Gilder (71), Gil Morgan (71) and David Edwards (67) were 7 under.

Eaks nearly got his first career Champions Tour victory at last year's tournament, shooting a final-round 65 to force a playoff with eventual winner Andy Bean.

"Last year, I was fortunate to get into a playoff,'' Eaks said. "But if I'd win this, it'd kind of take the sting out. ... It'd also prove to me that maybe I belong out here a little more than I think I do at times.''