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Turlocks Paul Smith wins back-to-back Section titles
Paul Smith
Turlock High senior golfer Paul Smith knocks in a putt during Monday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton. Smith won the individual title with a 3-under-par 69, more than enough to move on to next week’s NorCal Championships. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal

STOCKTON — As players, coaches and spectators huddled inside the clubhouse at The Reserve at Spanos Park to look at the final results, Turlock High golfer Paul Smith decided to step outside. The clubhouse was getting crowded, especially with dozens of people trying to keep themselves dry from the soft drizzle.

Smith found a group of fellow golfers, who congratulated him on an impressive score at Monday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament. He shot a 3-under-par 69 in the 18-hole tournament, and no one knew for sure then if that was enough.

One of the fellow golfers asked Smith how he could shoot so well after having a much higher regular-season tournament scoring average of 77.

“You’re clutch,” the fellow golfer concluded.

When you’re a Smith, you have to be. His score was, after all, enough for him to successfully defend his individual Section title. Ironically, his score of 69 was a repeat of last year’s performance, which also outlasted similar conditions on Monday: cold, blustery wind and no rain until after most of the rounds were completed in the early afternoon.

“I like playing here when the weather’s like this,” said Smith, who finished with five birdies and hit the greens about 15 times. “I don’t like playing here when the weather is sunny with 40-mile an hour winds. I was fortunate for the weather to be as it was today.”

He will once again compete at NorCal Championships, to be held at Butte Creek Country Club in Chico on Monday. This time, he’s hoping to advance to the state tournament in June — like his older brother Sam, a sophomore at USC who recently earned a Pac-10 honorable mention.

The Smith brothers have now captured two Section titles apiece, with Sam doing it in 2007 and ’08. That means they have owned four of the last five. Paul knows he’ll be forever compared to his older brother.

It seems like he enjoys the challenge.

“I definitely want to make state,” said Paul, a senior who will play for Cal State Stanislaus starting in the fall. “That’s my goal. Last year, I didn’t make state and this year, it’s my senior year. I gotta make state. My brother made state. I gotta tie him in another category.”

He entered Monday’s tournament with his Turlock team. Teammates Teo Chiesa’s 80 and Tyler Gomes’ 86 helped the Bulldogs finish with a team score of 410 — 22 strokes from Granite Bay High, which earned the third and final spot at NorCal.

Turlock Christian, the only other local team to qualify for the Masters, totaled 442, with San Jose State-bound golfer Kathleen Rojas — who competes against the boys with her younger sister, Esther, because the school does not have a girls team — led the Eagles with an 82, followed by Kyle Cederlind’s 87.

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