Jeff Shain | The Downswing
7:20 PM PST, November 14, 2012
Gene Jones, who spent three seasons on the Champions Tour before illness set him back, put himself in position for a return when Friday’s 6-under-par 66 gave him a share of the lead after two rounds of the tour’s qualifying final in Coral Springs.
The Orlando pro holed out for an eagle and added seven birdies at the TPC Eagle Trace, pulling alongside Bobby Clampett at 7-under for the week. They were one shot ahead of California pro Jeff Brehaut.
“It was a great day today,” Jones told a tour liaison. I was hitting the ball really well and got it going on the back nine and we were off to the races.”
Jones shared top honors at the 2007 qualifying final, also at Eagle Trace, and parlayed that into three seasons on the senior circuit. A lingering illness dropped him to 56th on the 2010 money list, and he was absent for all of 2011.
Last year, Jones got into five events with his best finish a tie for ninth at the Insperity Championship.
“The way I played today reminded me of how I played here back in 2007,” Jones said. “I don’t know if I shot the same score, but I had seven birdies and an eagle today. That’s a beautiful day and lunch goes down really good after that.”
Clampett followed Tuesday’s opening 68 with a 67, making him the only man to break 70 on both days. After finishing 39th on last year’s money list, he’ll be a top alternate at most events next year but is trying to improve his status.
“I’m really playing for the first three tournaments,” Clampett said. “I debated about even coming here, but I wanted to improve my position and also wanted to play this new equipment [recently obtained from Nike].”
Kissimmee’s Damon Green, who caddies for former Masters champion Zach Johnson, slipped from his first-day lead with a 74. He dropped to a tie for 11th, on the bubble for restricted Champions Tour status.
Joining Green at 2-under was Orlando’s David Peoples (73-69). Two more rounds are pending, with the top five earning full membership for next season. The next seven will receive restricted cards.
Orlando’s Jeff Freeman, last year’s Q-School medalist, recovered from an opening 74 with a 69 that left him one shot out of competing for restricted status.Jeff Shain covers golf for the Orlando Sentinel and Tribune Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffShain, or reach him via email at email@example.com.
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