KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Vaughn Taylor's first victory on the Nationwide Tour gave him exempt status on the circuit through 2004.
At his current pace, he might not need it for next year.
Taylor birdied his final three holes Sunday - including the first hole of a playoff - to beat Joe Ogilvie and win the Knoxville Open. Taylor tied the course record with 8-under-par 64, and his winner's check of $85,500 made him the fastest player in tour history to reach $200,000 in a season.
It took the former Hephzibah and Augusta State golfer just five events to beat the record. The previous record was 12, set by Ian Leggatt in 2000 and Cliff Kresge in 2002.
"It's a great feeling knowing I reached $200,000 quicker than any other player," Taylor said. "I haven't been thinking a lot about money so far this year, but I guess I can for the next week."
Money-counting will come in handy as the season ends. Taylor moved into second place on the tour money list behind Ogilvie on Sunday; the top 20 at the end of the season receive PGA Tour cards for 2004.
"Everyone's goal is to come out here and make it to the PGA Tour as soon as possible," Taylor said. "It's always been a dream of mine and now I have it in my sights."
Taylor trailed leader John Elliott by four shots entering the final round, but Elliott only shot 71 and placed fourth. Taylor, meanwhile, made birdies on Nos. 1, 5, 7, 10, 11, 14, 17 and 18 to tie the course record. Ogilvie shot 66 with no bogeys to also finish at 20-under 268 and force the playoff.
On the extra hole, the par-5 18th, Ogilvie hit his second shot into a pond in front of the green. Taylor responded by reaching the green in two and two-putting for the birdie and the title.
"When Joe hit it in the water, it took some of the pressure off of me," Taylor said.
He played his final 43 holes of the tournament without a bogey and went 14 under over the same stretch. It gave his small fan club - which included former Augusta State coach Jim Kelson, now at Tennessee - plenty to cheer about.
"My parents and coach Kelson were here to see me win, so today was perfect," Taylor said. "Coach is the only guy who recruited me out of high school, so winning with him here is special."
Taylor started the season on the Hooters Tour, but he advanced through Monday qualifying at the Virginia Beach (Va.) Open on May 12. Less than seven weeks later, he hasn't finished lower than a tie for 13th in any event - including two second-place finishes before Sunday's victory.
"Vaughn is a buzzsaw right now," Ogilvie said. "He's playing the best golf on tour, so I'm happy to see him win."
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