STEVINSON — Coaches thought they had organized a high school girls golf tournament Tuesday. Instead, they lived a scene from "The Grapes of Wrath."
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championship at Stevinson Ranch will be remembered for 50-mph gusts, pushcarts tumbling to the ground, golf balls that barely stayed teed and dust clouds that almost blocked the sun.
"Miserable," Escalon's Presli Pilati summarized.
"Insane," Woodland Christian's Meagan McGrew concluded.
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"Ridiculous," Turlock Christian's Kathleen Rojas termed.
"Ridiculous" also describes Rojas's 84, a remarkable round given the fact it was shot in a Merced County dust storm. The only other girl to break 100 was Meagan McGrew (98) but, in truth, all 53 who posted a score deserved medals.
Rojas will lead a trio of individual qualifers to the Section Masters on Monday at another potential wind tunnel, The Reserve at Spanos Park north of Stockton.
Also advancing are the section champion Escalon Cougars, who edged Central Catholic by three strokes for the blue banner.
All, however, will take home stories about the day a little bit of Tulsa broke out in the Central Valley. Birds and endangered species hunkered down out of view while the girls somehow persevered, leaning forward as they trudged into thankless headwinds.
Riverbank's Courtney Floyd (106) marked her ball at No. 9 while a tumbleweed rolled through a bunker and across the green. Meagan McGrew and Turlock Christian's Esther Rojas lost their caps at the same time and chased them down a fairway. The gale made the most routine task, like recording a number on a scorecard, an exercise in patience.
Tournament director Ty Pettigrew of Hilmar and fellow coaches considered postponing the event, but three factors convinced them otherwise:
1. There were no falling trees or lightning, so the field was safe;
2. To reschedule within a few days was next to impossible, especially for contestants coming from Vacaville or father away;
3. The wind was the same for everyone.
"It's unfortunate. It doesn't even up the field but some girls know how to to play in this and some girls don't," Pettigrew said. "It's not great or conducive to low scores but everybody is playing in the same conditions."
Kathleen Rojas, a junior, was a member of the Turlock Christian boys team that won the Division VI title last spring (TC doesn't field a girls team). That means she's been absent from the golf scene this fall. In fact, she had not played an 18-hole round since her appearance in the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach two months ago.
The rust was blown off her swing, however, as she recorded bogeys early in her round at the 16th, 17th and 18th, Stevinson Ranch's punishing into-the-wind finish. She lapped the field with those bogeys.
"I was dodging tumbleweeds and constantly looking around and watching for branches and stuff flying at us," Rojas said. "I've played here since I was 7 and have never seen it this bad. I think I did pretty good today."
So did the Escalon girls, who matched the school's boys section title earlier this year. Presli and Parker Pilati, one of the tournament's six sister combos, anchored the Cougars.
But by day's end, they and everyone else celebrated the same feat — they finished.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.