Serina Castillo never played a round of golf before high school.
Her decision to pick up the sport at Merced High proved to be a smart move. If anything during her time as a Bear, she proved she was a quick learner as she became one of the top golfers in the Central California Conference.
On Thursday night, she found herself signing a national letter of intent in front a gathering of family and friends to accept a scholarship to play golf at Simpson University.
"Before high school softball was my life," Castillo said. "I've seen how well I've been able to do in golf the last four years. I'm excited to see how much I can improve the next four. I know I can get better."
She's not alone.
"Her potential in the game of golf does not have a ceiling," Merced golf coach Scott Winton said. "In golf's new area, where athleticism is key, Serina will excel. She has a burning desire to compete in everything she does and she has a passion for practicing and getting better at the game.
"These are the intangibles that separate the average athlete from the exceptional ones. It's hard to put your finger on it as it's not just one thing, but when you see it, you know it and Serina has it."
Simpson coach Joe Griffin watched Castillo play a tournament in Manteca. One round was all he needed to see as he soon offered Castillo a scholarship.
Castillo appreciated that there was no pressure to sign right away. She kept her options open during her senior year. She had offers to walk-on to play softball at San Francisco State and Stanislaus State. San Marcos State was interested in Castillo for golf.
"Coach Griffin let me have as much time as I needed," Castillo said. "There was no pressure. That made me know I was surrounded by good people."
Castillo visited the small, private school campus in Redding during the fall. She felt the school and the community fit her personality.
Merced golf coach Scott Winton feels Simpson is getting a great addition.
"Simply put, Serina is the model high school student athlete," Winton said. "She not only gets it done on the links and softball field but she excels in the classroom and her community. Not only as a coach, but as a father, I can only hope my daughter takes a path similar to Serina."