Jensen, Neuheisel share three-shot lead with one round to go

This time last year, Michael Jensen was wrapping up one of the biggest wins of his recently-revived amateur career. Meanwhile, Joe Neuheisel was competing for Boise State University in his final year of eligibility.

On Saturday at The Preserve, the pair will find themselves going head-to-head in the final group at the 30th running of the Stocker Cup.

Jensen and Neuheisel fired identical first and second round scores, carding 67 and 68 to lead the 48-player mid-amateur invitational field heading to Saturday’s conclusion. Jensen, of San Francisco, Calif., has eagled the par-5 8th twice to account of nearly half of his red figures. Neuheisel, of Scottsdale, Ariz., has not registered an eagle but put together a bogey-free round on Thursday during his first competitive appearance at The Preserve.

“You can get yourself on the wrong side of some holes here,” Jensen said. “I just haven’t put myself in bad positions yet and I’ve made a fair amount of putts.”

“Kind of like last year,” he added.

The comparisons continue, as Jensen also entered last year’s final round with a share of the lead before going on to defeat Jason Anthony in a sudden-death playoff.

While Anthony had nearly a decade of experience on Tom Fazio’s heralded design spread across the Santa Lucia Preserve, Neuheisel provides fresh meat to the mid-amateur circuit.

The son of former college football coach and current CBS Sports analyst Rick Neuheisel, Joe turned 25 in January and got his newly-labeled mid-amateur feet wet in June at Los Angeles Country Club. He tied for sixth at the George C. Thomas Invitational, where Jensen finished runner-up after falling in a playoff to Evan Beck.

“So far I’ve gotten to play LACC and The Preserve,” Neuheisel said. “This is too good to be true.”

The highlight of Neuheisel’s second round came on the front side when a 60-foot putt fell in for birdie. Where most would be content with a well-lagged two-putt, Neuheisel channeled 1990 Hale Irwin and joyfully jogged around the green with his putter raised in celebration.

“These two rounds I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well off the tee, so I’ve been in the fairway,” Neuheisel said. “And once you’re in the fairway, because of where they put these pins, then you get yourself into spots where you can for sure two-putt.”

Sitting back in a tie for third place are Brian Blanchard of Scottsdale, Ariz. and Geoff Gonzalez of San Jose, Calif. Blanchard was hoping for redemption in the form of a final round pairing with Neuheisel. The pair endured a hard-fought 25-hole match during the round-of-16 in this summer’s Arizona Amateur, which Neuheisel would go on to win.

Gonzalez’s Friday 67, tied for low score of the day, puts him within striking distance in his first go-around at The Preserve.