Will Brink was a stroke away from being a part of his third straight playoff in as many weeks Monday in the Northern California Golf Association/California Interscholastic Federation Northern California High School Championships.
A poor start and a missed birdie putt on his final hole proved to be his undoing, but his final two-over-par 74 score at Butte Creek Country Club was an impressive finish nonetheless for the East Union High sophomore.
“He played tremendous golf out there,” said East Union coach Dennis Wells. “He’s only a sophomore, and there was a lot of talent in this tournament. The kid has got real potential.”
Brink finished in an 11-way tie for 15th place. Included in that group is two-time Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament champion Paul Smith of Turlock High.
Jonathan Garrick of St. Francis was the medalist with a 68.
The top three teams and best six individuals not a part of qualifying squads advance to the California State Championships held on June 8 at Poppy Hills Golf Club in Pebble Beach.
To get to the NorCal tournament, Brink had to prevail in a five-man playoff in the SJS Masters at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton on May 16. And at Brookside Country Club, also in Stockton, May 9, he was one of three to advance out of a four-man playoff in the SJS Division-IV Tournament.
“It was a little disappointing to know that I was only a stroke away,” Brink said. “There’s the ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ thing going on, but a lot of other players were thinking the same thing. Everybody plays on the same course so there are no excuses.”
When finding out he was a stroke away from getting a chance to extend his season, Brink said he first thought about the 12-to-15-foot birdie putt that stopped inches shy of the cup on the ninth hole — his last one of the round.
But Brink’s finish was far better than his start.
His opening drive on the 498-yard, par-5 10th hole went out of bounds. Brink went on to take a double bogey, and then he bogeyed 11.
“After he hit that first tee shot I could have kicked myself,” Wells said. “But he played great after that and finished 1-under over the last 16 holes.”
Brink admitted that nerves got the better of him and that it was a challenge to put the nightmare start behind him.
After the 14th hole he was four over, but then he birdied 15 and 17 to get back into contention.
“I just tried to forget about it the best I could, but honestly it’s hard to forget something like that completely,” Brink said. “It was not the way you want to start a round at NorCals.”
Just getting to NorCals itself is quite the achievement for Brink.
“It was real nice just getting to experience it,” he said, “It’s always good to play in as many tournaments as you can, and it’s a lot of fun being able to go out and play the best of the best at NorCals.”