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Turlocks Paul Smith takes Masters title, joins older brother in tourney success
Troy Bennett
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STOCKTON — After pounding out the day’s most outstanding round, Turlock High junior Paul Smith made the long journey from his final hole to the clubhouse at The Reserve at Spanos Park on a gloomy Monday.

He had a good feeling that his three-under-par 69 would put him at the top of the individual charts of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters, saying that “I don’t think many people will shoot under-par today.” He settled his clubs outside the clubhouse and walked inside, not knowing if his effort was enough.

Well, Smith was right.

Not too many of his fellow high school golfers were even close to him. Smith’s score — an under-par performance that was only matched by two others — was enough to help him emerge from his older brother’s gigantic shadow, as Sam Smith won two Masters titles during his sophomore and junior years at Turlock High before attending the University of Southern California, where he’s a freshman golfer.

Paul Smith’s next stop is the Diablo Grande Golf Course in Patterson, where he will participate in Monday’s NorCal Championships. But even if the junior plays well enough to advance on, he’s forgoing the CIF State Championships. He has committed to playing an American Junior Golf Association tournament in Phoenix, Ariz., where the University of Oregon — his ideal college — will be watching.

Paul started the first eight holes on Monday without a par, as he made bogey at holes No. 5, 7 and 9. But then he recovered by finishing with birdies at 6, 8, 10, 11 and 12.

On top of that, he missed the green only once, something he hadn’t done in previous tournaments.

Monday’s score is Smith’s best at The Reserve, beating his previous course mark by four strokes.

The wet conditions didn’t bother him much, though it rained for a few holes.

“This weather, it wasn’t a factor today,” Turlock coach Ben Culala said. “And when you take the weather out of the equation, Paul can beat any of these guys. He’s a great player, just like his brother. He has kept us in everything that we’ve done this year.”

Culala said that while the final scores were being tallied.

Turlock finished with a team score of 404, about 20 strokes from qualifying for NorCal. Travis Souza had a 77, as Tyler Gomes carded an 82, Jeffery Chapman finished with an 86, Eric Wetzel scored an 89 and Taylor Sellers finished with a 96.

Pitman High’s Troy Bennett was one stroke from qualifying as an individual, as he fired a one-over-par 73, his lowest tournament score yet. His performance earned him a fifth-place medal, though he’s already thinking about next season.

“I’m bummed that I didn’t make the cut, but I have next year,” the junior said. “I’ll come more prepared.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.