“Winning last year at Sonoma was great, and I had a great year,” Exber said. “But there’s an asterisk when you win at a different course.”
Indeed, the Stocker Cup returned to the Tom Fazio design in the hills above Carmel after a year’s absence, and perhaps the tournament’s strongest field came with it.
Exber had been a perennial contender in Stocker Cups past, and in fact won the Tatum Trophy – presented to the player over 50 with the lowest score – four times, but finally broke through with the championship last year.
He tore into the final round looking to repeat the title, making birdie on the opening three holes. “I felt someone else was playing golf in my body,” the champion said of his hot start.
After his second shot landed up against a divot on No.5, Exber made bogey. His round became something of a grind then as he played even-par golf for the next 12 holes.
Coming up the final hole, the seven-time Southern Nevada Golf Association player of the year thought he needed a little more to pull away. “I was in the fairway thinking I might need birdie,” he said. “So I didn’t want to be too safe.” Exber’s approach was short, and his chip left a little too much work to make par. His third bogey of the round (and only seventh overall for the event) mattered not. He won by three shots. Exber was the only player in red numbers in all three rounds.
Exber became the first repeat champion since 2009-10 (Kevin Marsh). The champion won in wire-to-wire fashion in 2014. Except for being out of the lead after the first round in 2015 – Brad Wilder held that advantage – Exber has held the lead in the past five of six Stocker Cup rounds. At age 59.
“For me to win a mid-am event (for players aged 25 and older) with the great players here….it’s a huge thrill,” the TPC Summerlin member said.
Gene Elliot of Glen Oaks CC and first-round leader Brad Wilder tied for second. Elliot earned the Tatum Award for the low senior in the event. Elliot had the low round of the tournament, a second-round, 6-under 66.
Jason and Jack Anthony held onto their second-round lead to capture the team gross championship. The father-son duo posted a 198 total, powered by a final-round 65 that matched their second round. Jason Anthony has been a factor in NCGA events for years, but it was his father that drive the team early in the final round, making five birdies to card a stellar 31 on the front nine. (Jason and Jack are pictured right with tournament chairman George Kelley and Erik Stocker).
“I didn’t hit the ball very well yesterday so my son gave me a tip and it made a big difference,” the elder Anthony said. And the magic tip that would produce a 31 on the stout Tom Fazio-designed Preserve GC: “Drop it in the slot.”
Exber and partner Dusty Allen took second with a 203 total. Third went to Brad Wilder of Valhalla GC in Louisville and Nick Fezcko of Sharon Woods in Cincinnati at 206.
The team of Jerry Ledzinski of Monterey Peninsula CC and AmateurGolf.com’s Pete Wlodkowski captured the team net event with a 195 total. Tyler Crawford and Brandt Kuhn of the Plantation GC took second, two back of the champions while Mark Sear and Michael Lebbin of Los Angeles CC took third.