MONTEREY — The winds were brutal, reaching gusts of 30 mph. As a result, the greens were a little drier and bumpier than normal.
Get used to it.
Laguna Seca Golf Course is where the Central Coast Section regionals and finals will be held over the next two weeks.
“I told our top end you have on objective,” Stevenson coach Justin Bates said. “Don’t be afraid to go low. Have the courage to take risks.”
Luke Brandler and Curtis DaSilva responded, both shooting under par Monday to lead the perennial power Pirates to the Gabilan Division golf title with a 375-408 win over runner-up Palma.
“Mission accomplished,” Bates said.
Brandler was medalist with a 2-under 69, while DaSilva carded a 70.
“Laguna Seca is always pretty windy,” Brandler said. “It was tough. I was struggling early, trying to gauge the conditions on first few holes.”
Stevenson and Palma will move on to the CCS regionals next Tuesday, with Salinas — with finished third with a 409 team score — vying for an at-large spot.
“Were trying to put ourselves in a position to get comfortable with the course,” Bates said. “The CCS is the one we want. The means the most to us.”
Stevenson will be chasing its 15th section title, with the last one coming in 2019 prior to the pandemic. It has also been the runner-up 10 times.
Ironically, the only blemish on a perfect season coming into the finals for the Pirates occurred in their final Gabilan Division tune-up when Palma battled them to a tie over nine holes.
Playing 18 holes for the first time in division play, Stevenson appeared more prepared for the five-plus hour rounds, as evident by its 33 stroke win.
“It’s a mental challenge,” said DaSilva, who was medalist last year. The rounds are longer. At the same time, when you play nine holes, you don’t have much room for mistakes.”
Bogeying his first hole, DaSilva felt like it took a few holes to figure out the conditions, relying on his past experiences at Laguna Seca to sort things out.
“I found my swing about four holes into the match,” DaSilva said. “The wind was challenging. It’s not so much about adjustments as it is making the right decisions. My approaches were good. I gave myself changes. I just didn’t putt well.”
Brandler was 3-over after five holes before the freshman settled into a rhythm, parring nine of the next 10 holes with one birdie.
“I just had to focus on what I can control and not concern myself with the conditions,” Brandler said. “My drives were working. I just made mistakes early.”
Brandler put on an exhibition of golf over the final three holes with an eagle and two birdies to edge DaSilva for medalist honors.
“We kind of treated this like a practice round for the next two weeks,” Brandler said. “We’ve been thinking about the CCS since the start of the season.”
Stevenson had four of the top five overall finishes with Jonathan Sze shooting a 76 and Cole Leon a 79. Luca Cimoroni rounded out the team scoring with an 81, along with Steven Lai’s 84.
“Our middles did their job,” Bates said. “It’s always an advantage to play the course that you know you’re hoping to be on for the next two weeks.”
Palma couldn’t carry the momentum from its last divisional meet, but managed to hold off Salinas by a stroke to extend its season as a team going into next weeks regionals.
“I had a poor start,” said Palma junior Evan Russo, who shot an 81. “I grinded through. I don’t want to blame the course. I hit the ball perfectly. The score just wasn’t there. I couldn’t make my putts.”
Russo will be joined by teammates Kevin Chen (78), Brendan Watson (79), Ryan Russo (79), Colton Amaral (91) and Josh Bassetti (91).
Among the individuals that advanced included Salinas’ Jack Jarvis (77) and Reid Bradway (79), along with Carmel’s Jonathan Chen (75) and Coe Kroeker (77).
“The conditions were challenging with the winds and greens being a little bumpy,” Jarvis said. “I struggled early. I told myself the next three holes are scoreable. I was able to birdie one of them.”