STEVINSON — The wind whistled through the wetlands at Stevinson Ranch, testing patience and stamina from tee to green.
In the end Tuesday, Turlock High won the Central California Conference girls golf title for the sixth straight time. To be more correct, however, the Bulldogs survived as much as they won.
"It was a tough day for all the girls," Turlock coach Mary Krupka said. "We squeaked by, but we'll take it."
The conditions outdistanced the field this day. Besides the two-club wind that turned Stevinson Ranch's finishing holes into a last mile, the course also was defended by heavily sanded greens and tight pin placements.
Many of the girls didn't mind the teeth removed from the usually sidewalk-fast putting surfaces, but this was no walk in the park. Turlock senior Stephanie Hammell, the CCC's best player with a nine-hole stroke average of 43, staggered home in 99.
Hammell, a Stevinson Ranch employee last summer, needed six swings and a drop from an unplayable lie to escape a grass bunker at the 15th. To her credit, she retained her composure and launched a 4-hybrid onto the green at the par-3 16th.
"I play here twice a week and I've never been in that bad of a situation," Hammell said. "That grass was so deep."
It was a humbling experience for a player whose team never lost a CCC duel in four years. Turlock has won 67 in a row, though the 67th came by only three strokes last week over Merced.
Nevertheless, the Bears didn't threaten Turlock on tournament day. The Bulldogs, backed by a 93 by Abby Falke and a 95 by Emma Mendez, totaled 513, 23 strokes lower than runner-up Merced.
"It was exciting for me to go four years unbeaten," Hammell said. "It really was a relief to beat Merced last week."
Merced senior Lauren Elliott (95) balanced an ice bag on her left shoulder after the round. She still is slowed by injuries incurred in a nasty auto accident last June, which abbreviated her season.
"I'm still visiting a chiropractor the last few weeks just to pull through it," Elliott said. "I had to play so much (to regain form) I just gave out. Today I got my natural ball-flight back."
The surprising CCC medalist was Golden Valley sophomore Tori Johnson, a three-sport athlete who directed her shots safely away from trouble. The result was a back nine of 43 and a total of 91, both career bests.
"If the rough was on the right, I would go to the left," Johnson said. "I was just hoping to stay with them (Hammell and Elliott)."
She was one of the few who did better than expected.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.