STOCKTON — There was no fist pump. No twirl of the putter. Not even a smile cracked the face of the always even-keel Will Brink.
A simple removal of the cap and a handshake was how the East Union senior celebrated.
Been there. Done that.
Experience was Brink’s ally in his final Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament appearance Monday at The Reserve at Spanos Park. Brink played extra holes in a section tournament for the fourth time in his decorated four-year career, beating out Turlock High’s Teo Chiesa for the final available berth to the CIF Northern California Regional Championships. They both shot 1-under 71 in regulation and earned medals for finishing in the top six.
The Lancer senior is 4 for 4 when it comes to playoff holes. On May 6, he buried a medium-length birdie putt to outlast Central Valley standout Anthony Bonales in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Tournament playoff. Brink took a similar route as a sophomore, when he last qualified for NorCals.
“I still get nervous, but it’s more excitement than anything now,” Brink said. “When you get into a playoff it’s basically match play, and match play is a lot of fun.”
Brink certainly made it exciting, as wayward tee shots put him in difficult predicaments on holes 9 and 1. Chiesa, meanwhile, piped both of his drives and had perfect looks at the flags.
On 9, the first playoff hole, Brink ended up in a waste bunker to the left of the fairway, leaving him with about a 140-yard shot to the middle of the green — his only viable play with a greenside bunker protecting the hole. With pitching wedge in hand and Chiesa already inside 20 feet of the flag stick, Brink stuck one of his two best shots of the round.
Both players two-putted for par.
“He hit a really good shot, and I was just thinking that I can’t get too cute with this bunker shot or I’m not going to give myself a chance,” Brink said. “I tried to play it in the middle of the green and ended up hitting a good shot.”
Brink again missed the fairway on 1, setting himself up in the short rough to the left and on a downhill slope. He settled his approach shot about 15 feet under the hole. Chiesa sailed his over the green and settled for bogey. Brink tapped his par putt and punched his ticket to NorCals.
“It’s nice to make it back there for my last year,” Brink said.
Brink also clutched up in his final holes in regulation. He was 1-under going into the par-5 16th, where he four-putted for a bogey 7.
“I knew then that wasn’t going to come close,” Brink said. “I thought coming into (the tournament) I was going to have to shoot 70 to qualify. After that I just tried to play aggressively and get as many birdies as I could.”
He birdied two of his final five holes, one on 18 and the other on the 528-yard second hole, and wrapped up his round with a par on 3. Hole 2 was where he nailed his other big shot, a 240-yard bomb against the wind with his 3-wood. Brink missed the eagle putt but gladly settled for the routine birdie.
While past experience in pressure situations aided Brink on Monday, inexperience hurt the Ripon and Ripon Christian teams — which qualified by winning the SJS Division V and VI Tournaments, respectively. Ripon finished with a 448, and Ripon Christian a 455. The top three teams — Jesuit (367), Oak Ridge (385) and Del Oro (396) — advance to NorCals along with the top four individuals who are not part of qualifying teams. Individual qualifier Corey Pereira of Ponderosa was low medalist with a 4-under 68.
The NorCal Tournament takes place May 20 at Diablo Grande Golf & Country Club’s Ranch Course in Patterson.
One of the big surprises is that Central Catholic’s Andrew Bonner will not be going on. The golfing prodigy from Ripon, who played for Ripon High his freshman and sophomore years, shot an 80 to round out his prep career.
For Ripon, sophomore Nick Sharp led the way with a respectable 79, but overall he thought he and his team did not play to their potential. He began his round with a birdie on 1, but an out-of-bounds shot on 7 and a double bogey on the difficult par-3 13th knocked him out of contention for a NorCal bid.
“We got experience from this, which is the big thing,” Sharp said. “Just the tension of the first tee is something you don’t experience until you’re here. Just getting here is a great experience for us, and we get to see what kind of scores we need to compete here.”
Also scoring for Ripon were Nathan Suender (85), Jack Brierly (90), Robby Figeroid (95) and Cole Herrin (99). Kyle Head withdrew during his back nine.
Christian Manes paced Ripon Christian with an 87, Jesse DeRousse carded an 88 and Kyle Colyn an 89. Andrew Manes (91) and Austin Alger (100) make up the rest of RC’s team score.