SPRINGVILLE — There's probably no golfer more deserving to win an Art City Amateur title than Brandon Hargett.

He's earned the perennial runner-up label by having so many close-call finishes over the past 14 years. Once he lost when Clay Bingham made birdie on the final hole. He also lost in a playoff one year to Pete Stone.

"I would love to win this thing," Hargett said. "This tournament has always been pretty important to me."

After firing a 7-under par 64 on Saturday, Hargett is in good position to finally get his name on the trophy. Heading into today's final 18 holes, he leads by one over 2003 champion Darrin Overson (65) and two over Ashton Casper (66), grandson of golf legend Billy Casper. Three back, after firing first-round 67s, are Bingham, Southern Utah's Nathan Page and Hobble Creek's Tyler Weight.

"There are a lot of good players out here so I don't think I can coast around (Sunday) with a 71 and expect to win," said Hargett, whose most prestigious win came a few years back at the Salt Lake City Amateur. "I think it's going to take another low score."

In his round Saturday, Hargett had eight birdies and one bogey. He chipped in for birdie on No. 17, but the other seven came from good iron shots or two-putts on the par-fives. In fact, Hargett made birdie on all four of Hobble Creek's short par-fives.

"Most of my shots were pretty close. I don't think I made a birdie putt over three feet. But I did make a lot of good par putts," he said.

Overson shot a 2-under 34 on the front side with birdies at one, two and four and a bogey on the par-3 sixth. He added four birdies on the back nine, including his final two holes, to close with a 31.

Also in the chase is Hargett's brother Jason, who shot a 68. Tyson Lund, who lost in a playoff last year, is at 69 with Jeremy Richmond. At 70 are Johnny Averett and Denny Job. Defending champion Andrew Barton shot an even-par 71. In total, 15 players shot par or better.

The top eight from Saturday's first round will be regrouped and will tee off today around 1:30 p.m.


E-mail: jimr@desnews.com