Merced's Hernandez teed up success as freshman

slynch@mercedsunstar.comDecember 31, 2012 

BEA AHBECK CASSON/ Girls Golf Player of the Year, Merced High's Netanya Hernandez

Netanya Hernandez just wanted to be like her big sister Belen.

So while most sister tandems were playing dolls or enjoying a trip to the playground, the Hernandez sisters were forming a lifelong bond on Merced County's local links.

"I've been on a golf course pretty much since I've been alive," Hernandez said. "Belen started playing golf when she was about 8, and I wanted to be just like her, so I was out there with a plastic set of clubs pretty much as soon as I could hold them."

The lifetime commitment paid dividends as Hernandez took the Central California Conference by storm as a freshman.

She was named Merced High's Golfer of the Year after finishing third in the league with a scoring average of 42.85 and recording the team's best 18-hole score of 82 at Sac-Joaquin Section Masters.

She can scratch one more of her sister's accomplishments off of her to-do list as well, earning Sun-Star Girls Golfer of the Year as a freshman.

"Netanya had the best freshman season in Merced history," Bears coach Scott Winton said. "She's played a lot of golf coming into this year, both competitively and recreationally. She did not require the standard 'intro to golf' lesson that most frosh girls require. Her first day on the course this past fall we were talking course management and risk-reward on hole 8 at the country club.

"As good as she is on the golf course, she's even better in the classroom."

Good as Hernandez was individually, it was the team accomplishments that stood out in her mind most.

The Bears managed to achieve something even Belen Hernandez couldn't in her fantastic high school career at Golden Valley, handing Turlock its first CCC loss in 15 years -- a run of 99 matches.

"To stop anyone's 15-year winning streak is a special thing," said Hernandez, who had a low round of 43 in the victory. "It was my first time playing Turlock, so I didn't know what it was like to lose to them. But the seniors had taken a long path to get to that win, so helping them achieve that was really nice."

Merced rode that momentum to a fourth-place showing at the Division 1 South Tournament and the school's first-ever team appearance at the Masters Tournament.

Hernandez was at the forefront of that success, riding her touch on the green to a memorable first season.

"Putting is definitely my strength," Hernandez said. "The best part about it is, it doesn't matter how big or small you are. Once the ball is on the green, everything is equal.

"Going into next year I really want to improve my approach game and finish under 40 more consistently.

"It started out with me just wanting to hang out with my sister, but somewhere along the way I started to love golf. I'm hoping I can play it into college and maybe beyond."

All-Area Team

Serina Castillo, Merced

Heather Parker, Buhach Colony

Molly Williams, Atwater

Melina Meza, Merced

Shelby Singh, Buhach Colony

Marisa Castillo, Merced

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