Tournament Chairman Erik Stocker with Colby Harwell (AmateurGolf.com photo)
After nine appearances and a few close calls, Colby Harwell (San Antonio, Texas) broke through to shoot a closing 70 and win his first Stocker Cup at The Preserve Golf Club.
"I was never able to close the deal," Harwell said about his past performances in Carmel.
This time, he did close the deal.
Harwell started the day two shots behind the 36-hole leader Geoff Gonzalez who was out of the gates quickly with rounds of 69-66.
But Harwell made quite the statement on his front nine. In addition to chipping in for eagle on the par-5 eighth hole, he made birdies on hole Nos. 2,4, and 9. The birdie on the ninth was a big moment -- a 25-foot putt to a back-left hole location capping off a scorching 31.
"I figured at that point, it was my tournament to win or lose," Harwell said.
Harwell's game had been rounding into form over the recent weeks. Something in his swing clicked after battling the dreaded push block.
"I found my low draw that I've been hitting," Harwell said. "I found something last week that allowed me to turn it over and hit that little draw."
On a windy day, a low draw is just the ticket.
"I've got a lot of confidence in it," Harwell said. "When I can hit a draw, I can play golf."
Harwell also had a solid mindset over the course of the week. The greens at The Preserve are difficult, and he managed them well.
"These greens are so fast and so difficult to read and putt all at the same time," he said. "You have to accept what comes your way. If you have a three putt or two, that's just the way it goes."
Gonzalez -- a former California State Amateur champion and Preserve Golf Club member -- tried to keep pace, shooting a 36 on the front nine, but a tough back nine, saw him slip down the leaderboard into a tie for eighth place.
Jimmy Castles (Cupertino, Calif) finished runner-up two shots off the pace. The 2018 Cal Poly grad was a last-minute substitute, and he almost brought home the Cup. Castles had a steady day, making two birdies and two bogeys and a stretch of ten straight pars to finish the round.
Jack Barber (San Francisco, Calif) rounded out the top-3 at 6-under par. Barber is a former Stanford tennis star who only took up golf four years ago, already qualifying for a U.S. Amateur. Two-time defending champ Michael Jensen, defended his title well and finished in fourth place.
Jake Byrum, a True Linkswear sales representative from Scottsdale, shot a bogey-free 70 in Saturday's tough conditions (likely the only player in the field to go bogey-free) and Stephen Hale fired an incredible 66 on Saturday, channeling his Cal Berkeley golf team days to post the best round of the day by three shots.
While the final gap of two shots looks close, Harwell's lead was four shots standing on the 18th tee, where a pulled tee shot cost him a double bogey.
"Coming down 18 was not the way I wanted to finish," Harwell said. "But at the end of the day, I had a little bit of a cushion, so I could throw a few shots off if I needed to."
Runner-up Castles may wish a few of those pars were birdies, but his first year showing leaves no doubt that he will be amongst the favorites next year. Hopefully, his understanding boss -- who allowed Castles to juggle his work schedule to take advantage of the chance to play -- will give him the time to play with more notice next year.
As for the champion, Colby Harwell marks his October calendar a year in advance.
"I treasure this with all the wins that I've had," he added. "Hopefully, I can do it again."
L-R: Gross champs Scott Berry, Stephen Hale. Net Champs Rusty Mosely, and Tommy Branch
Rusty Mosley (Vidalia, Ga.) and Tommy Branch (Savannah, Ga.) shot 61-63-61 to beat Brian Blanchard (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Colby Thiele (Carefree, Ariz.) by six shots in the net team competition.
In the gross team event, Stephen Hale and Scott Berry, both from Bakersfield, Calif. shot 67-70-64 for a 15-under par total. Brian Blanchard (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Colby Thiele (Carefree, Ariz.) also finished 15-under par, but finished runner-up after matching cards.
ABOUT THE Stocker Cup
The Stocker Cup was founded in 1991 to
memory of Peter Stocker. Peter and his
Harlan and John Montgomery founded San
Pacific Union Company, a highly successful
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
course -- has been described as "driving
through a California postcard." The Stocker
was played from 1991 to 1999 at Pebble
surrounding golf courses, before moving to
Fazio and Sandy Tatum designed Preserve
words of former USGA President Tatum:
Stocker was the quintessential amateur golfer.
loved golf with a passion. He would have
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
invited by the Committee.
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