Matt Mensinger's pre-shot routine never changes two full practice swings before the one that counts.
That consistency extends throughout his game, and it's not a mystery why he's one of the Stanislaus District's steadiest players.
The Beyer High junior parlayed his hard work into success Monday by capturing medalist honors at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 South Championships at Creekside.
Mensinger topped the field of 78 with a 2-over-par 74 featuring 14 greens hit in regulation. A nifty deuce at the 178-yard 15th (his 17th) a 6-iron to within 4 feet virtually sealed his entry for the Section Masters next Monday at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton.
His performance is not a surprise. He tied for 10th at the Masters last year and built on that performance this spring.
An early-season slump ended after a visit to swing coach Mitch Lowe at Stanford. Mensinger met Lowe during his years of instruction at Del Rio Country Club.
The Beyer star underlined his return to form with a 75 amid a wind storm at Creekside last week at the Modesto Metro Conference tournament. Conditions seemed much easier a week later as soft breezes barely ruffled Creekside's sprawling willows.
The nemesis at the D-1 was tournament pressure. Only four teams and the low six individuals not on those teams qualfied for the Masters. Knowing this, nerves frayed.
"I'm always nervous but you try to turn those nerves into excitement and not make it a bad thing," Mensinger said. "I'm starting to peak at the right time."
Johansen exited the premises with conflicted feelings. The MMC champion, upset a week ago in the league tournament by Enochs, rebounded with a first-place tie with St. Mary's.
Both teams finished with 395 strokes, but rules stipulated that ties are broken by comparing scorecards of the teams' No. 6 players.
St. Mary's prevailed. To no one's shock, Johansen preferred a playoff.
"It's a hard way to lose," said Johansen coach Dan Boer, one of the tournament directors. "It was still a great bounceback from last week."
Freshman Daniel Pena and junior Grant Plunkett paced the Vikings with 5-over 77s, but it got crazy at times. Plunkett cold-shanked his first iron shot of the day (at the 17th) en route to a triple bogey but somehow steadied himself.
Troubles for senior teammate Kfir Solomon (88) happened much later. He scored a horror-show 13 at where else? Creekside's par-5 13th, thanks to a lost ball and two out-of-bounds shots. It was his next-to-last hole.
Blaming Solomon for Johansen's narrow title-miss, however, doesn't tell the entire story. For starters, Boer recalled how Solomon, as a freshman, shot 78 and was instrumental in the team's 2010 D-1 South title.
For another, the what-if game in golf cuts both ways.
"You think about those missed 3 or 4-foot putts," Plunkett said. "Our goal was to win the section."
Johansen's consolation will be a trip to The Reserve next week. Also moving on are third-place Lodi and, in fourth place, Enochs. The Eagles totaled a 417 and beat Turlock by 11 strokes to earn their first-ever Masters team berth.
Enochs sophomore Timothy Yang, the hero with his wind-whipped 73 at last week's MMCs, struggled on the greens but still paced his team with a 78. Austin Haverdink followed with a 79.
Four local contestants, anchored by Mensinger, also extended their respective seasons: Modesto sophomore Carter Dewing (75), and Turlock pair Haden Sparks and Teo Chiesa (both with 76).
Dewing's adventure at the par-3 12th typified the day's emotions. He chunked his tee shot out-of-bounds but soon holed a 20-foot chip for what turned out to be an important double bogey.
The rest of his back nine was filled with pars, which always are good scores in high school golf.
Mensinger makes those pars work.
DIVISION 4 Central Catholic and its talented senior medalist Andrew Bonner seized all the big prizes from the Section Division 4 tournament at Castle Oaks in Ione. A brief afternoon rain didn't cool off Bonner, who was 6-under at one point but settled for a 3-under 68.
The Raiders raced to the team title, and the only Section Masters team berth, with a total of 377, 18 strokes better than runner-up East Union. Freshman Matthew Robinson (72) and sophomore Mac O'Brien (73) also starred for Central Catholic.
The three individual qualifiers for the Masters were Matt Sperling of Liberty Ranch (69), Billy Kiriluk of Sonora (69) and East Union's Will Brink (72). Brink rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to edge Central Valley's Anthony Bonales.
DIVISION 5 Trans Valley League champion Ripon hung on to a narrow lead during the back nine and edged TVL rival Hilmar by one stroke and gained the only Section Masters team berth available at the Section D-5.
The Indians, paced by sophomore Nick Sharp with a 4-over 76, compiled a 430. Hilmar, featuring sophomore medalist Landon Azevedo (even par 72), nearly turned its home-course advantage at Stevinson Ranch into a win.
Azevedo overcame a slow start and finished with a classy 2-under 34 on the back nine, including a birdie at the par-5 18th.
The top three indivuals to advance were Azevedo, Mike Cordova of Mesa Verde (75) and Alex Milward of third-place Bret Harte (78).
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter @modbeesports