Mike Mays of Beckley hits a chip shot Sunday at Grandview Country Club during the second day of the BNI Memorial golf tournament. Mays, the first-round leader, shot a 4-over-par 77 and is 10 strokes back of Alan Wharton

For years, Corey Pavin was branded the best player on the PGA Tour without a major championship before he won the 1995 U.S. Open.

Alan Wharton knows the feeling.

The Summersville native, who now lives in Ohio, has played in the BNI Memorial Golf Tournament for over 20 years. And nearly half of the time he has finished in the top five, and, more often than not, the top three.

“You do get to a point where you do wonder if you are ever going to win one,” Wharton said Sunday, after blistering Grandview’s spacious links with a 6-under 66.

If there is going to be a year Wharton rides to the top of the leaderboard and eradicates the moniker of best to not win a BNI, it’ll be this year.

Wharton fired a blistering 66 Sunday at Grandview Country Club and has built an 8-stroke lead heading into today’s final round at The Resort at Glade Springs’ Cobb Course.

Like Pavin before him, Wharton knows he will have a large contingent pulling for him.

“I’d say if I’m fortunate to be (in the lead) heading down the stretch, there will be a large crowd there pulling for me,” Wharton said. “And that’s a great feeling. It’s the culture of this tournament. There is a lot of local flavor. And maybe I’m not considered a local guy now, but I know a lot of people are rooting for me. And that’s great.”

Among his staunchest supporters are the other players themselves.

“A majority of the people here are pulling for Alan,” said six-time champion Mike Mays, who led after the first round with a 67 but followed that with a 77 Sunday, putting him 10 strokes behind Wharton. “Everybody here would love to see Alan win one. He’s been so close so many times in the past. He’s a great person. And he is such a good player. People don’t realize just how good he is.”

Two-time defending champion Brandon Reece is one of four players eight shots behind Wharton. His back-to-back 71s have him eight shots back.

“He’s got a big lead but anything can happen,” Reece said. “Playing from the back tees (the championship flight tees off from the back tees at Glade) is an advantage for the younger guys. It puts the long hitters right back in the tournament. But realistically, eight shots is going to be hard to make up.”

But not all the players are pulling for Wharton.

“I know one who won’t be (pulling for Wharton),” said Don Jones Jr., laughing. “But that’s a heck of a score. I can’t remember anybody being 10 shots up in this tournament after two days. And I don’t care where you’re playing, (a 66) is strong.”

Indeed. And possibly insurmountable.

—E-mail: demorrison@

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