Maybe The Preserve has a little less “teeth” than it used to when the Stocker Cup was first played there over 20 years ago. But more than likely, the caliber of the national field heading west keeps getting better as word of the amazing course, venue, and member and club hospitality spreads. After all, the best way to build a tournament is by word of mouth.
Whatever the case, the tournament celebrating the memory of Preserve Golf Club developer Peter Stocker is in its 30th playing this year with at least 15 of the Mid-Amateur field’s 48 players posting under-par rounds.
Wears, from Baltimore, started his round on the back nine today with a par on No. 10 and a bogey at the 11th. But he took advantage of the par 5’s with birdies on Nos. 13 and 17, turning in 1-under and setting himself up for a run on the front nine. And run he did — starting off with a birdie on No. 1 and three in a row on Nos. 3 through 5 to get to 5-under. He added one more at the par-5 8th, easily reachable in two for most of the field.
That made a perfect four birdies on the course’s four par-5’s for the solidly-built Wears, who bears more than a slight resemblance to his grandfather.
But this is no runaway — Wears is chased by defending champ and former Cal Bear Michael Jensen and first time competitor Joe Neuheisel of Scottsdale, both at 5-under. Another shot back lurks Ryan Terry of Nashville and Derek Meinhart of Illinois.
The other half of the 96-player field are so-called “B players” who compete in a simultaneous gross and net best-ball competition with the mid-amateurs in a format modeled after the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Leading the gross side of that competition at 9-under is the team of Will Wears and partner Matt Pingatore of Alamo, Calif. Pingatore — one of the most competitive guys in the B player field — showed he wasn’t just along for the ride early by recording a key save on No. 11, where Wears made his only bogey. Not only did he save par, but he made birdie on the difficult par-4. Pingatore also birdied the par-3 second hole, to keep a string of 5-straight birdies going for their team. Kyle Gentry and Jeremy McChesney are a shot back at 8-under. McChesney had quite a highlight as well, making eagle on the par-5 4th hole.
In the net best-ball competition, two teams are tied at 12-under 60, and that’s serious ham and egg stuff. Brian Blanchard and Colby Thiele of Arizona are tied with Ryan Terry and Preserve member Mark Flynn. Flynn played solid golf all day, and recorded a “3-for-2” at the 11th for a net eagle.
Things should be interesting in all three competitions, which continue tomorrow.