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Iron Will
Brink unfazed by pressure situations in run to state
East Union Highs Will Brink is the Manteca Bulletins All-Area Boys Golfer of the Year for a third straight season. - photo by CHRIS LEONARD/

Will Brink may not have saved his best for last, but playing his last high school tournament among California’s best was plenty good enough for the laid-back lefty.

A rare struggle with par-5s hurt his chances at medaling in the CIF/CGA State Boys Golf Championship at Carmel’s Quail Lodge & Golf Club, and the East Union graduate had to settle with a still-solid 3-over 74 that placed him in a four-way tie for 19th out of 54 entrants.

Could have been better, sure, but so what? It was the state tournament, an event he longed to compete in since his freshman year at EU. He is the first East Union player to qualify and first Mantecan to do so since former PGA professional Kevin Wentworth did it — and won — in 1986.

Plus, it was in the scenic Monterey Peninsula where he had never previously golfed. And he got to share the moment with a large contingent from back home, as former and current teammates, friends and family, coaches and teachers made the trip to cheer on the school’s most decorated golfer.

“There’s always more that you can accomplish, but as far as this year overall I’m completely content,” Brink said. “I really have no regrets. I didn’t play my all-around best at state, I mean, I played well I just couldn’t make putts. But to have so many people at state supporting me just made the whole experience.”

Brink is the Bulletin’s All-Area Boys Golfer of the Year for a third straight season.  This past spring he earned his second Valley Oak League MVP honor while leading the Lancers to their fifth conference championship in seven years.

But his breakout senior campaign truly began immediately following his junior year. He won two tournaments in the Junior Golf Association of Northern California circuit over the summer, earned a spot in the North/South California State Boys Championship and signed with UC Davis to continue his career on a partial scholarship.

Brink continued to ride that wave in the fall, placing second in the JGANC Tournament of Champions with an impressive 5-under 67 at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa. The Tournament of Champions medalist was Ripon resident Andrew Bonner, who edged Brink by a stroke.

“The biggest thing for me was last summer, that really boosted my confidence,” Brink said. “That was the best golf I had played. I knew at that point that I can shoot numbers that are lower. Going into my senior year it was nice to get over the hump a little bit, and as far knowing where I’m going (collegiately) that definitely took some pressure off.”

Not that Brink has ever shied away from pressure.

As a sophomore he qualified for the Northern California Regional Championship with narrow escapes in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Tournament and SJS Masters, qualifying out of both via playoff holes. He took the same path as a senior, coming up with clutch shots from tee to green when he needed them.

At this year’s divisional event, he got the better of Central Valley standout Anthony Bonales in a playoff after both finished 1-over 72 at Castle Oaks Golf Course in Ione. Brink punched his ticket to Masters dramatically, sinking a long birdie putt on the par-5.

Brink continued his outstanding play the following week at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton. There, he overcame a four-putt bogey on hole 16 — he was 1-under going in — and was able to finish 1-under 71 in regulation.  He then outlasted Teo Chisea of Turlock in the two-hole playoff with a par-par finish.

There would be no playoff hole at NorCals after finishing in a five-way tie for ninth place, but one stroke over his 74 score would not have been good enough for state.

“It was a fun journey getting to state,” Brink said. “I wish it was not as stressful, because I was getting that last spot each time. That’s cutting it close.”

Brink also enjoyed some success with the team. He led East Union to its fifth VOL championship in seven years at Livermore’s Poppy Ridge Golf Course while posting the low-medalist score of 72. The Lancers ended the year in bittersweet fashion in the SJS Division IV Tourney. They turned in an impressive 395, but that wasn’t good enough to advance them to Masters as a team. With only one berth allotted to the competitive Division IV field, Central Catholic produced a 378 and was led by individual champion Bonner’s 68.

“Getting VOLs as a team was big for us because it’s a very tough league,” Brink said. “To go out with another (title) was nice, and everyone played great this year.

“The round at sections was the best I’ve been a part of as team, unfortunately only one team goes on.”

And only one Lancer moved on. And on. And on.

“The work has paid off,” he said.