STOCKTON — Nerves often jangle at the Girls Sac-Joaquin Section Masters, the crown jewel event of the golf season.
The pulse quickens and the palms sweat at the Masters, where the section's best teams and individuals from all divisions gather each year at The Reserve at Spanos Park.
So it was Monday for a field of 108, including the section's top 14 teams. Before it ended, The Reserve's deep bunkers, daunting water hazards and tricky greens took their toll.
Merced, which placed second in the Central California Conference and third in the Section Division 1-South, settled for ninth place with a total of 493.
Sophomore Netanya Hernandez led the Bears with a 98, a score far higher than her stroke average and one stroke better than teammate Elizabeth Azevedo. Hernandez hoped for better, given her 82 at The Reserve as a freshman.
"A tough day," Hernandez summarized. "I wasn't hitting it at all good today. It got to me after a while."
The Bears finished seven strokes behind CCC champion Turlock, their nemesis all season. Merced owns dual wins over Turlock the last two years but still couldn't interrupt the Bulldogs' 10-year run atop the CCC.
"Each year, the goal is to get here to the Masters," Merced coach Scott Winton said. "It's just a handful of teams (three teams and four individuals) who go on (to NorCals). You bring your 'A' game and show for Merced."
Buhach Colony senior Heather Parker, one of 24 individual qualifiers for the Masters, settled for a 96, two higher than her score in 2012.
"A lot of nerves," Parker said. "It was just everything not coming together, but it was still exciting to be here."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports