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Bulldogs bring home Section title banner
Turlock golf
The Turlock High girls golf team display their Sac-Joaquin Section championship banner at the Turlock Golf and Country Club on Tuesday. Pictured from left, Sydney Streeter, Kate Harrington, Reece Benjamin, Savannah Van Gaalen, Natalia Lightfoot, Isabella Dowd (Photo courtesy of THS).

Turlock High’s girls golf team watched Enochs claim the Sac-Joaquin Section title last year — and vowed they wouldn’t let that happen in 2022.

True to their word, the Bulldogs claimed the Division II title on Tuesday at Turlock Golf and Country Club, completing a year-long quest to attain a blue championship banner.

But for Turlock, it wasn’t the usual suspects who were the heroes. Sydney Streeter, the reigning Central California Athletic League MVP, and Savannah Van Gaalen, shot 82 and 83, respectively, about 10 strokes above where they might normally be for a round played at TG&CC.

Instead, junior Isabella Dowd and sophomore Reece Benjamin upped their games when it was needed most. Dowd shot a 2-over-par 74 and Benjamin carded an 86 — both were well under their seasonal averages. 

Natalia Lightfoot rounded out Turlock’s five with a 90, giving the Bulldogs a team score of 415, 47 shots better than Enochs (462) and 51 shots clear of third-place Inderkum (466).

“I didn’t know what was going on,” said THS coach Mary Krupka, who, as the host, was busy with administrative tasks. “I was just trying to run the tournament and get the kids moving.

“I got a text from Pitman coach Jen Olsen that said, ‘Isabella’s kicking butt.’ That’s all I knew.”

The shotgun start had Dowd beginning at No. 11. She birdied Nos. 13 and 15, but picked up a bogey on No. 17. She regrouped on No. 18, though her tee shot found a fairway bunker. She escaped using an 8-iron, plopping her ball to within 25 feet of the pin. She drained the putt for her third birdie in her first eight holes — she would close her day with a birdie on No. 10 — and needed just 33 strokes to complete her first nine.

“I’ve never played well in tournaments,” said Dowd, who matched her career best round. “And I don’t think it was the course because we had a tournament earlier in the year here and I didn’t play well. I just took it shot by shot, instead of worrying about my score all the way through the round.”

Benjamin used a similar approach during her round.

“We just had to have that mindset that every shot matters,” said Benjamin, whose lowest round is a 79. “We just had to put all our effort into it, and everybody did that.”

Benjamin birdied the par-3 11th to get her round off to a fast start. She made the turn in 45 strokes and played the final nine in 41.

“I’m always happy for my team when they do their best,” said Van Gaalen. “Isabella has really been working hard at her game and she really showed up on Monday. As for Reece, she put a lot of hard work into her game and did a great job.”

Though Pitman High did not advance to Monday’s Masters tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, senior Monet Sayadian advanced as one of the top individual finishers.

Sayadian’s 88 included a birdie on the par-4 ninth hole. She hit 5-wood to within 60 yards of the flag, then chipped to within 6 feet, leaving her an easy birdie putt.

Though she’s played The Reserve before, she knows it will be a tough test.

“I need to work on a few things,” said Sayadian. “I need to work on my driving and my chipping. My irons are decent.”

The Masters tournament gets under way at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start.