by Scott Seward
CARMEL (October 23, 2009) - Northern California's best amateur in 2009, Randy Haag of The Olympic Club, is out to a two- stroke lead at the mid-point of the annual Stocker Cup at The Preserve GC.
The 50-year-old Haag has already established himself as a mini-legend in the region, with four Northern California Golf Association Player of the Year awards and six club championships at his home course. A second six-birdie 69 that duplicated his opening effort was not ultimately satisfying to the leader: "I'm still looking for that clean round where I don't make any bogeys. But I've had good control on the greens."
The leader board has a distinct Olympic Club flavor to it, as Nick Ushijima, a Japan resident and Olympic member, stands at four-under 140. The two-time Japan Mid-Amateur champion ('07-'08) is a Japanese native but spent many years in the U.S. Also at 140 is John Pate of the Valley Club. The Southern Californian scorched 7,067-yard Preserve with a five-under-par 67 in the second round, the low round of the tournament and one of three on the day,
First-round leader Greg Kennedy of Duluth, GA dropped to a tie for third with two competitors who also posted 67s, Robert Funk of Moreno Valley Ranch GC and Kevin Marsh of Dragon Ridge GC. The three players stand at three-under 141 for the championship.
Billy Mitchell of River Pines GC and two-time champion Craig Doell of Victoria GC are four back. A total of 10 players are at even par or better.
The race for the Elliott Cup, a 54-hole best-ball team competition that pits one of the scratch A-Players with a B-Player competing at their assigned handicap from the gold tees, “B” player Dan Kreer of Corral de Tierra held on to his first-round lead. Playing with Randy Haag, Kreer carded a 65 for a 127 total, good for a one-stroke lead over Sam Nunes of Pacific Ocean GC.
In a change from years past, players will change partners throughout the three-day competition, with awards for the best “A team player and “B” player to be given Saturday night.
Defending champion Joe Sanders of Incline Village followed his opening 79 with a one-under 71 and is 12 back.
After Saturday’s third round, the field will be cut to the players with the low 20 scores and ties. Starting times begin at 9:00 a.m.
•Robert Funk of Moreno Valley's five-under 67 boasted nine birdies on top of a double-bogey start. "I didn't feel totally warmed up," he said. "BUt once the ball started going into the hole my confidence got going. The green light was on."
•The other low round of the event so far came from 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Kevin Marsh of Las Vegas. The former Californian's perspective on golf is enlightening: ""You play amateur golf to have fun. It can get addicting - but you have to manage your expectations."
ABOUT THE STOCKER CUP:
The Stocker Cup, played in memory of Peter Stocker, is held each October at The Preserve Golf Club in Carmel. The field is comprised of 52 world-class mid-amateur invitees, who meet stringent eligibility requirements, and pay a minimal fee for their participation.
The Stocker Cup is a Golfweek/amateurgolf.com World Rankings points event. In addition to the A players who are invited based on their playing accomplishments, the Stocker Cup also holds a one-day qualifying tournament for players not receiving invitations. On September 29, over thirty competitors with a handicap index of 3.4 or lower vied for the final four A-list spots at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, CA. Tanner Makimoto of Roseville, CA posted a 1-under 71 to take home medalist honors and qualify for his second national tournament of the year (he played in the USGA Amateur at Southern Hills in August).
Those final A-list golfers are complimented by a matching number of qualified B-list competitors, with invitations extended to friends, relatives and associates of the late Peter Stocker, as well as to various sponsors and other supporters of the event. Every A-player is teamed with a B-player in a handicapped best-ball competition held simultaneously with the individual stroke-championship.