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The sentimental favorite moved into the lead Friday at the Porter Cup.

John Harris, perennial contender and two-time runner-up in the event, shot a 4-under-par 66 to take a two-shot lead entering today's final round at Niagara Falls Country Club.

No one is more due to win the Porter Cup than Harris.

The 45-year-old insurance man could have won in 1992 when he shot a 9-under total. However, PGA star David Duval finished 10-under to beat him. Harris' total would have won 29 of the past 31 Porter Cups.

The 1993 finish was even more agonizing. Harris missed a 5-footer on the 72nd and final hole to win, then missed a 2-footer coming back that would have forced a playoff. Joey Gullion was handed the trophy. Harris also has had other top 10s at Niagara Falls, including last year's tie for seventh.

But Harris isn't a guy who can't win the big one.

He rebounded a few weeks after the '93 defeat by winning the U.S. Amateur championship. The next month he scored the clinching victory in the U.S. team's triumph in the Walker Cup (amateur golf's Ryder Cup).

He also happens to be a nice guy, a soft-spoken gentleman.

"I've had a lot of support here, and I've got a lot of friends here," Harris said after Friday's round. "It's really nice."

Sentiment, of course, won't be a factor on the course today when Harris tees off in the final group at 12:50 p.m. Harris, who stands 11-under-par, has some hot golfers on his tail.

Tied two shots back are Zimbabwe's Lewis Chitengwa and South Africa's Tim Clark. A crowd of about 800 Friday watched Chitengwa, a senior at the University of Virginia, shoot 63 to move to 9-under. Clark, a second-team All-America from North Carolina State, shot 69 Friday.

Georgia Tech sophomore Matt Kuchar, the leader after the first two rounds, faltered with a 73 and is three shots back. Southern California's Roger Tambellini is five back.

Harris had a 50-foot chip-in for birdie from in front of the green on the 463-yard par-4 fifth hole. He made a bogey on No. 7 but then hit crisp irons for four more birdies. Those included a 9-iron from 120-yards to 2 feet on No. 8, an 8-iron from 160 to 15 feet on No. 9 and a wedge from 120 yards to 2 feet on No. 15.

"I'm playing very well, I'm thinking well and I'm putting good, so that's a good combination," Harris said.

Harris was sporting a Crag Burn golf cap and was followed by that club's pro, Lonnie Nielsen, who has been a close friend since college. Harris starred at Minnesota and Nielsen at Iowa. As usual, Harris is staying at Nielsen's home.

"One of the reasons I come here is to spend time with Lon and for him to analyze my game," Harris said. "He knows my swing, and he helps me make long-range improvements in it."

Upcoming on Harris' schedule is another Walker Cup competition, to be held in two weeks in Scarsdale, N.Y. However, Harris by no means is looking upon this event as a tune-up tournament.

"They're obviously in the back of my mind," he said of his past runners-up finishes. "I'm not thinking about the Walker Cup. I'm thinking about this."

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