CARMEL, Calif. (October 28, 2012) - All week Stocker Cup champion Kevin Marsh likened a 72-hole stroke-play championship to a marathon. In the final round of the event, he went against that notion, becoming more of a sprinter in coming from behind to post a five-shot win.
After lurking near the top of the leader board for the first three rounds, the champion was quick out of the box, seizing control with a stellar, course-record-pace 32 on the Preserve’s front nine, highlighted by four birdies in the first five holes. The 39-year-old began with perhaps the tournament’s only birdie on the tough 442-yard par-4 first hole. “You just try to keep it going,” the reining California State Amateur said. “Then once you get a lead, you start protecting it a little.”
Indeed, by the end of the outgoing nine, Marsh was up seven shots on the struggling third-round leader, Brady Exber. The four-ball partners (they’ve captured the prestigious Champions Cup in Houston three of the last four years) then traded birdies on the back nine, but it was a little too late to have an impact on first place. “Fortunately I had enough cushion to get it to the house,” Marsh said in reference to the four bogeys he carded on the back nine.
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Those bogeys kept first-round leader Dave Nelson’s record 65 safe for another year (that 65 was posted during the 2004 Stocker Cup).
Exber didn’t come home empty handed; the 56-year-old captured the Tatum trophy for the second straight year. The award is presented to the top "A" golfers aged 50 and older. Exber also captured the “A” player portion of the Elliot Cup, a 54-hole best-ball team competition that pits one of the scratch A-Players with a B-Player competing at 90% of his assigned handicap. Dan Lynch earned the honor for “B” players.
Defending champion Randy Haag of San Francisco finished in a tie for third with past champion Craig Doell and fellow Olympic Club member Mark Mance. The three were 11 shots back of the champion.
For Marsh, the title caps a year that saw the Dragon Ridge CC member win the California State Amateur and Carlton Woods Invitational and finish runner-up at the Crump Cup at Pine Valley, New Jersey. Only a hot Randy Haag in last year’s Stocker Cup separates Marsh from four straight titles on a Preserve Golf Club he clearly dominates. “I just love this course,” the champion said. “If fits my game perfectly. There’s a lot of room off the tee and I make a lot of putts. It’s really fun to win.”
From all appearances, Stocker Cups in the near future will have Marsh in or near the winner’s circle.
• Watching the conviviality between Marsh and Exber was a treat. After jarring a long par-saving putt on the tough 15th hole, Exber approached his four-ball partner (and fellow southern Nevadan) for what he described as "a little love." Instead he got a good-natured shove.
• All four past champions in the field made the cut - Marsh, Haag, Craig Doell and Joe Sanders. All four finished in the top seven, a testament to the enduring quality of their play. Stocker Cup champions have games built to last.