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Hernandez finds room for improvement

There aren't too many student-athletes with a schedule like Belen Hernandez.

The Golden Valley senior's dedication to golf is well documented.

Once practice ends, Hernandez can be found out at the driving range or putting greens.

On weekends, Hernandez drives down to Pebble Beach to receive some hands-on instruction.

It's little wonder the GV star has amassed two Central California Conference titles, a section title, four team MVPs and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament the last two years.

She can add one more title to resume -- the Sun-Star's first-ever four-time Girls Golfer of the Year.

"When Belen was a 10-year-old she would come out and play with the girls at Merced Hills," GV coach Wayne Hague said. "I knew then what a special golfer she was going to be.

"It's been a pleasure to watch her develop as both a player and a person."

Hernandez's golf accomplishments are even more impressive given the rest of her busy schedule.

"I was elected co-president of the Student Political Education and Action Club and vice president in the Environmental Club," Hernandez said. ""A lot of people don't know that my student activism is an intricate part of who I am.

"I'm always really busy. I've never known any other way."

Hernandez wasn't only assuming leadership roles in her student organizations.

Hague said the senior matured a lot this season and it could be seen both on and off of the course.

"She was really quiet the first few years," Hague said. "So the other players stayed away a bit.

"They really look up to her and as she began to open up. They began to ask her questions about the game."

Hernandez's maturity was evident on the links as well.

An off performance in the CCC Championships and a rough hole at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament might have derailed Hernandez's season in the past.

At the very least, she would have dwelled on them for some time.

Instead, the senior regrouped and headed into the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament ready to go.

"I've learned to welcome those situations as they come," Hernandez said. "I really enjoy the playoffs.

"I like the pace, the level of competition.

"It's fun to play when there's pressure on every shot."

Hernandez got all of the pressure she could handle.

The GV star shot a 5-over-par 77 to force a five-person playoff for the final CIF Northern California Girls Golf Championships berth.

The suspense only lasted a hole.

"I hit a good drive with my 3-iron," Hernandez said. "I hit my chip a bit too far -- I think because of the adrenaline -- and had about a 15-foot birdie putt."

When Center's Sagee Palavivatana's approach landed three-feet shy of the hole, Hernandez knew she had one putt to extend her career.

"It felt pretty good when I hit it. It went just past the hole," Hernandez said. "(Palavivatana) made her putt. There was nothing to be done about it.

"I would have liked to move on, but in the end, it's another experience that's going to make better down the road. I realize it isn't the end, but the start of something new.

"I'm going to play golf in college and eventually try to go to Q-school."