Michael Jensen became the first repeat champion at the Stocker Cup since Brady Exber defended in 2015. (Conner Penfold/AmateurGolf.com)
returned to The Preserve and emphasized his title defense with three consecutive rounds in the 60s to win the Stocker Cup by three shots. The San Francisco native's 54-hole total of 204, 12 under par, is the lowest winning score since 2012, when the now 30-year-old tournament switched from a 72-hole event.
Entering Saturday tied with Joe Neuheisel
, Jensen pulled away on the closing three holes after the pair went toe-to-toe in the final pairing, deadlocked at 11-under par through 15 on Tom Fazio's masterpiece.
"I was able to keep pace with him with my putter," Jensen said of his battle with Neuheisel. "I was making a lot of putts. Joe and I got a little bit into match play on the back nine since we were three or four clear of everybody."
The pivotal moment down the stretch came at the par-3 16th. Neuheisel, short right of the green off the tee, made a disappointing chip before three-putting for double bogey. Jensen, pin-high left of the back pin location, ran his birdie try four feet past but drained the par save. It was a two-shot swing heading to the final par-5 of the tournament, which is right where Jensen wanted to be.
"Throughout my career, par-5s are definitely where I've scored the best," said Jensen, who went 9 under in three rounds on The Preserve's four par-5s. "The driver is one of my better clubs in the bag. I hit it long and straight, so I can attack par-5s a majority of the time."
Knowing the lay-up shot into the 17th was just as difficult as going for the green in two, Jensen pulled driver and ripped it off the deck to the front of the green. He two-putted to reach 12 under before a closing par at the 18th.
Jensen, whose wife was pregnant with their first child last October, says being a father has altered the way he plays golf mentally, and ultimately made successfully defending the first title of his career easier.
"The importance of a golf shot is pretty small now," Jensen said. "It's completely put it in perspective. It's allowed me to be a little more free when I'm playing."
Tatum Trophy winner Davis Boland (left) and two-time Stocker Cup winner Michael Jensen (Conner Penfold/AmateurGolf.com)
Neuheisel, new to the mid-amateur circuit since turning 25 in January, settled for a runner-up finish at 9 under. His first crack at a mid-am invitational came back in June on Los Angeles Country Club's North Course when he took sixth at the George C. Thomas Invitational.
Taking home the Tatum trophy for lowest senior score was Davis Boland
, who tied for 17th with a three-day total of 4 over par 220 that featured a 68 in the second round.
Jensen and his partner Jack Peat finished in a tie for first in the Gross Team event, but lost out in a scorecard playoff to 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Bill Williamson
and Paul Favorito. Brian Blanchard
and Colby Thiele were three-stroke victors for the Net Team title, with Blanchard's individual score of 7 under giving him a third place finish alongside Geoff Gonzalez
30 years of the Stocker Cup
"It's like playing golf in a national park."
That's what one tournament participant said when asked about the sprawling 18-hole design set amongst majestic oak tucked into the Santa Lucia Preserve.
The mid-amateur invitational, graciously hosted at The Preserve since the club's inception in 2000, celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. The legacy of Peter Stocker continues to thrive and the Stocker Cup is competed for and enjoyed just as he would have intended it, says his son Erik.
"We want to continue the culture of competing in the spirit of my father's memory," Erik Stocker said. "He would have loved to have seen the guys out here having fun and competing at the same time."
"30 years in, I want to make sure we maintain that going forward and continue to take advantage of this incredible property," he said. "It's a spiritual place."
ABOUT THE Stocker Cup
The Stocker Cup was founded in 1991 to honor
memory of Peter Stocker. Peter and his
Harlan and John Montgomery founded San
Pacific Union Company, a highly successful real
development company. The firm initiated the
development of The Santa Lucia Preserve, a
acre residential and golf community located
Carmel. Meandering through the winding road
Preserve's centerpiece -- the top-100 rated golf
course -- has been described as "driving
through a California postcard." The Stocker Cup
was played from 1991 to 1999 at Pebble Beach
surrounding golf courses, before moving to the
Fazio and Sandy Tatum designed Preserve G.C.
words of former USGA President Tatum: "Peter
Stocker was the quintessential amateur golfer.
loved golf with a passion. He would have loved
simultaneous best-ball event, similar to the
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Invited Mid-
players are either paired with a single digit
can propose their own partner to be introduced
invited by the Committee.
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