Shawnee Martinez trailed Christine Uhalde by four strokes after four holes — not exactly the desired start by the precocious Enochs High sophomore.
"There was a lot of attention on me," Martinez said. "I knew I had to beat Christine."
One thing about Martinez — she's comfortable fighting from behind. Fourteen holes later Monday at Dryden Park, she posted a 1-under-par 73, six better than Uhalde, the talented Johansen senior. Martinez became the Modesto Metro Conference MVP while she and her Enochs teammates annexed the school's third conference title.
Enochs positioned itself for the championship following its two-stroke win over Beyer in a showdown of 10-1 teams two weeks ago at Creekside. Monday's drama centered on Uhalde vs. Martinez, the collision of the Stanislaus District's best golfers. Last fall, Uhalde shot 73 at Creekside to edge Martinez by one at the MMC.
One year later, Uhalde opened with a birdie at Dryden's par-5 18th — the featured foursome's first hole — and Martinez soon struggled to stay within reach as a light rain fell.
Martinez, the younger sister of former Beyer star Marina Martinez, doesn't sweat golf's routine setbacks. She knocked a 7-iron shot into a hazard at Del Rio Country Club last summer and still won her second straight Bumgardner Junior Memorial.
This time, she mounted her comeback via a 2-putt birdie at the sixth while Uhalde double-bogeyed. Thus encouraged, she rallied with 2-under-par golf while hitting every green on her back nine.
At her final hole, the downhill par-3 17th, she lofted a well-struck 3-hybrid (her "magic club") into a southerly wind for a strong two-putt par.
"I guess it's better for me to start the way I do," Martinez said.
Enochs, runner-up Beyer and six individuals topped by Uhalde will advance to the Sac-Joaquin Division I South Tournament next Monday at Merced Country Club. Among those advancing are Beyer's Angela Nuccio (85) and Modesto senior Summer Uhrik (91). Uhrik chipped in at her final hole, the par-3 ninth, as Modesto crept past Johansen for third place.
The day, however, belonged to Martinez and the Eagles.
"Beating Beyer was exciting, but this is my last game," said senior Mary Silva (84), who improved dramatically since her freshman year. "I wanted this year to be great. This is it."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.