In 28 years of competition, The Stocker Cup has never required extra holes to crown a champion. But that all changed this year, as a small gallery surrounding the 18th green was treated to the best finish in tournament history.
It all started with Michael Jensen, one of three co-leaders heading into today’s final round. Jensen, a former standout golfer at Cal Berkeley, is enjoying more starts on the amateur circuit and his game is in top form. He was tied with Jason Anthony at 6-under when his approach shot to No. 18 left him facing a slick 20-foot downhill putt, With a treacherous Sunday pin, it was the kind of putt that could easily run past the hole and off the green, leaving a 40-foot pitch as you might see at Augusta National.
But Jensen, working a new “saw” grip that had him holing his share of putts this week, wisely allowed the putt to roll end-over-end until its final revolution rolled in like Tiger’s famous chip-in at No. 16 in the Masters.
“The last 6-feet, it just starts to get faster,” said Jensen of his final putt. “I was just trying to roll it down there for a tap-in.”
When the putt went in, the crowd erupted, thinking that a Stocker Cup champion had been crowned. But Jason Anthony, one of the top mid-amateurs in the country, was in the final group still on the course and had other ideas.
Anthony, standing at 4-under on the tournament on the par-5 17th, made eagle on 17 to get to 6-under and turned it into a nail-biter. As Golf Genius showed the updated scores, the gallery around the 18th green got more interested. Anthony, playing with his father Jack as his B-player partner, did not disappoint. He left his approach shot pin-high left, with about 15 feet between him and an eagle-birdie finish.
As if on command, he dropped the putt, the crowd got electric, and it was on to sudden-death with both Jensen and Anthony tied at 7-under-par.
The 18th hole at The Preserve is a gorgeous dogleg-left with a fairly daunting bunker guarding the left side of the fairway. Many players can carry it, but the safe play is out to the right. Anthony’s drive was spot on, carrying that bunker and leaving him a short iron to the green. Jensen was in the hay to the right of the fairway but managed to get enough club on his ball to be positioned on the steep fringe in front of the green.
Anthony, with adrenaline flowing, fired his approach shot right over the pin, but it carried too far and left him with a very difficult 35-foot putt. After Jensen putted up the steep slope to within 3-feet, Anthony tried to nurse his putt close, but left it 10 feet short and missed, setting the stage for Jensen to try that saw grip one more time and make the 3-footer for the win.
“I know Jason well,” said Jensen of his opponent. “We have played amateur golf together in tournaments like the Santa Clara County in the final group, and he’s a tough competitor.”
Defending champ Joe Deraney of Mississippi did his best to keep his hands on the trophy, firing 6-under for the tournament to finish alone in third place. Bryan Hoops of Arizona, one of the co-leaders heading into today’s final round, finished tied for fourth with Bryan Blanchard (also of Arizona) at 5-under. Hoops, 52, took home the Tatum Cup trophy for low player over age 50.
After Bill Williamson and partner Paul Favorito posted a tournament-record 11-under 61 in the first round and followed it up with a 6-under 66 in round two, nobody thought they were going to let another team have a chance in the final round. Sitting 4-strokes in front, Williamson and Favorito sealed the gross title with a 7-under 65 in the final round, scoring 24-under for the championship. Adam Harrington and Mike Fritz of Portland, Oregon took second at 15-under, Tug Maude and Richard Tuohey took third at 14-under.
In the Net team competition, Brian Blanchard and Colby Thiele won a card-off over Rusty Mosley and Tommy Branch of Georgia after both teams tied at 30-under. John Sawin and Mark Flynn took third at 24-under.
The Stocker Cup committee was pleased to be back at the wonderful Preserve Golf Club after a one-year hiatus due to Covid. Special thanks to Riley Ramones, Preserve head professional, and his entire staff as well as The Preserve agronomy, food and beverage, and everyone else that makes The Preserve hospitality so legendary. A debt of gratitude to the Northern California Golf Association for administering the competition, and to Straight Down for providing amazing embroidered tee gifts to all players. A final note of thanks to The Preserve members who provided lodging for many players, and gave up their course all week for this event.