070726 porter cup/morreale

070726 porter cup/morreale - sports Dan Cappellazzo/staff photographer Lewiston, NY �Nick Morreale, of Lewiston, chips the ball out of the trap on 18 at the Niagara Falls Country Club during the second round of Porter Cup play. Morreale finished the day with a 72.

For those who thought Brian Harman had lost his game and wouldn’t be a factor in one of the country’s most prestigious amateur tournaments, he’d like to say thanks.

The 20-year-old University of Georgia junior has used those doubts as motivation, jumping out to a record-setting pace at the 49th Porter Cup. Harman fired a 7-under 63 Thursday at Niagara Falls Country Club, a day after opening with a 64. His 13-under 127 has him in first place, three shots ahead of Justin Regier and Jason Kokrak of Warren, Ohio.

“People forget I was ranked No. 1 in the country for a while before I got into college, so I’ve been here before. I know how it works,” Harman said. “I’ve been working real hard.”

After a bogey on No. 2 Thursday, Harman steadied himself, making eight birdies the rest of the way, including four of the last six holes. “I just stayed out of my own way,” he said. “I’m hitting it good and I’m putting it good.”

On a normal day, Harman’s performance would have been the talk of the club, but that honor went to Regier on Thursday. The East Amherst resident carded a bogey-free round of 62, the tournament low so far this year and just two strokes off the course record of 60, set by Bill Haas in 2003.

“My ball-striking was pretty good and I was making a lot of putts. I was seeing the lines really well,” said Regier, the son of Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier. “I didn’t make any bogeys out there, so that obviously helps.”

Regier’s round was highlighted by his birdie on the 15th hole. After putting his approach shot in the right bunker on the 330-yard par 4, Regier didn’t just save par, he knocked it in from the sand.

Did Regier expect it to go in?

“You always try and make everything,” he said.

Hovering around the lead after two days isn’t anything new for Regier. He was tied for fourth after two rounds in 2006 and was still in the top 10 after Round 3, only to shoot a final-round 74 and fall to a tie for 34th.

“I’ve got more experience. I’m more mellow,” Regier said of what’s different for him this year. “I’m just going to go out (today) and use that experience and try and play well.”

He’s also not intimidated by the competiton around him, a field that tournament director Steve Denn called the strongest in history before play started.

“We’re all guys, we all put our pants on the same way,” Regier said.

With a famous last name and a local connection, the gallery around Regier was fairly large Thursday. That’s likely to continue today and Saturday, which is fine by him.

“It’s fun to have your friends and family around,” he said. “I have a great support system.”

Regier’s two-day total of 10-under 130 has him tied for second with Kokrak, who earlier this month won the Ohio Amateur Championship for the second straight year.

“I’m hitting the driver with a lot of confidence,” Kokrak said. “I kept the ball in play and put it where I had a chance to make birdies.”

Kokrak did one better than birdie on No. 11, a 554-yard par 5. After knocking a 7-iron on the green, he sunk a 20-foot eagle putt.

“The greens are soft,” he said. “You can shoot right at the pins.”

Harman, Regier and Kokrak will play in the last group today, teeing off at 1 p.m. They’ll be preceded by a group that includes Billy Horschel, who sits alone in fourth place after a pair of 66s . Joining Horschel will be Lucas Lee and Garrett Osborn, both of whom are at 7-under.

A near-record 34 players in the field of 75 broke Thursday. That’s just one off the record of 35 players under par, which occurred in the first round of the 2003 tournament.

Barring an unexpected turn in weather over the final two rounds or a complete collapse by the leaders, it appears Casey Wittenberg’s course-record of 14-under 266 in 2003 will be eclipsed.

Contact reporter Jay Skurski at 693-1000, ext. 117.

Trending Video

Recommended for you