Justin Regier drew the gallery. Brian Harman showed it golf at its unparalleled best.
The third round of the Porter Cup was set to be Regier's coming-out party. The East Amherst resident had positioned himself near the top of the leader board, and the spectators crowded the tee boxes and greens Friday in order to see the local boy make a run toward one of amateur golf's elite titles.
The fans who strolled the course with Regier walked away from Niagara Falls Country Club giving thanks that Harman was also in the final group. The 20-year-old from Georgia put on a clinic that left longtime tournament observers shaking their heads and clapping their hands.
Fairways? He hit them. Greens? He was on them. Long putts? He buried them.
When it was all over, Harman had opened a four-shot lead and put himself on the doorstep of history. He fired a 4-under-par 66, reaching 17 under for the tournament. The record low for the previous 48 Porter Cups is 14 under, so Harman enters today's final round set to establish a score no golfer ever has come close to. Not Phil Mickelson, not Ben Crenshaw, not David Duval, not even Tiger Woods.
"That's the goal," Harman said. "That's the goal of golf, to do things that no one's ever done before. I'll come out [today] and keep having the same sort of deal I've been having all week."
If he does, no one stands a chance of catching him. Lucas Lee of UCLA had a 64 for the best score of the third round, and he's still four shots behind the pace setter from Day One. Billy Horschel of the University of Florida will complete today's final threesome (1 p.m. tee time), and he's looking to overcome a six-shot deficit after a 67.
"Brian's playing well. He's playing great," said Regier, who had a 2-over 72 to fall to 8 under for the tournament. "He's making putts. He's hitting fairways. He's hitting it on greens within a reasonable distance. Great player, great kid."
Harman started with a three-shot lead over Regier and Ohio's Jason Kokrak, and he wasted little time distancing himself from his playing partners. He was 3 under after nine holes, using a dynamic all-around game. He hit 7 of 9 greens and 5 of 7 fairways, missing another by a foot.
His advantage had ballooned to six shots over Kokrak and seven over Regier when they reached the turn.
"I'm just trying to stay as focused as I can," said Harman, a University of Georgia junior. "When I'm out there I try to just feel like I'm in my own little world."
His putter and approach shots carried him through the back nine. He hit just 2 of 6 fairways but managed 7 of 9 greens. He was almost automatic when he reached the putting surface. Harman birdied Nos. 12 and 13, sinking 21- and 18-footers to keep the crowd buzzing.
His only blemish was a bogey on the par-4 17th. His tee shot went left near a tree, and his second shot was a 50-yard worm-burner.
"It was a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow," he said of losing the flawless round.
Regier, meanwhile, was missing a part of his game at different times. His ball-striking was askew on the front, as he hit just 2 of 7 fairways and 4 of 9 greens. He improved to 5 of 6 and 5 of 9 on the back, but his putter failed him. He had a three-putt bogey on No. 10 and missed a putt to bogey No. 11.
"It was a struggle," said the son of Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier. "I didn't hit very many greens. I didn't hit very many fairways. But I think I battled OK, so tomorrow's a new day.
"I just didn't hit it close enough, and I just didn't hit it well enough."
Regier tees off at 12:40 this afternoon in the third-to-last group, and he's certain to draw a crowd again. But after Harman's display, there's sure to be a gallery of locals watching him. They likely will be following a historic coronation.
"Justin's a great guy, and there was a lot of people out here supporting him," Harman said. "It was really good to see. They were awesome. They were cheering for me just like they were cheering for him. It really made me feel almost like I'm from around here, which is very nice."
Brian Harman 64-63-66--193
Lucas Lee 66-67-64--197
Billy Horschel 66-66-67--199
Jason Kokrak 67-63-70--200
Jon Curran 68-67-66--201
Chris Kirk 73-63-66--202
Justin Regier 68-62-72--202
Romain Bechu 69-65-70--204
Garrett Osborn 67-66-71--204
Jon McLean 70-70-65--205
Gary Woodland 69-67-69--205
Mark Harrell 69-67-69--205
Dustin Johnson 67-68-70--205
Skip Berkmeyer 73-65-67--205
Complete list of Porter Cup scores on Page B6