Monterey – Hands were numb from the cold caused by a sudden wave of rain and wind. Gripping the putter forced some to change their swings – although some of the bats still flew in the direction of the gray sky.

Depending on what part you were playing during Tuesday’s Central Coast Division Finals, golfers either dealt with rain in their faces, or shots stopped abruptly on the wet fairways.

“It was probably one of the toughest rounds I played during this time,” said Nikki Iniakov, a sophomore at Stevenson University. “My game didn’t calm down. I was scrambling.”

To beat the elements, last week’s Pacific Coast Athletic League low medalist still gave a low 77 team, helping the Buccaneers finish third in the Central Coast Division Championship at Laguna Seca Golf Course.

“It was the same conditions for everyone,” said Inyakov. “So it doesn’t give you an excuse. I’ve faced snow and rain in tournaments in other states. Progressing as a team is pretty cool.”

Iniakov was speaking about the Buccaneers’ progress to the Northern California Championships next Monday at the Berkeley Country Club in El Cerrito.

In the process, Stevenson gained some amount of payback in the team’s eviction that wiped them out last year at Los Altos.

“All I remember is having the plague in fourth place last year,” Stevenson coach Jason MacArthur said. “We wanted the one who meant more. The kids are so happy. It’s all about them. But it’s good to see them happy.”

Last year, Iniakov was the only county player to qualify for the Northern California Championships, where she ended up qualifying for the state finals at CIF and finishing sixth as a freshman.

“Nicky has been saying all year long, ‘I want us to go as a team,'” MacArthur said. “I think she’s happier than anyone else. We’ll have a blast.”

While results were predictably low with wet conditions, Angela Abanico chose the right time to achieve her best result of the season, posting an 83 for Stevenson.

Usually the No. 5 golfer at Pirates, Abancio’s result turned the two-point difference for third into a comfortable 10-stroke lead behind defending champion Christian Valle and runner-up Harker.

“I don’t think I’ve ever shot that low before,” Abancio told McArthur, as her teammates surrounded her with giant smiles on a cold afternoon.

As dominant as Inyakov was in her first two years at Stevenson, only seven strokes separate the remainder of the team. By comparison, Los Altos’ first five strokes were 18 strokes apart.

After beating the specter of the championship opening, Iniakov’s items became a mental barrier for more than half of her 18 holes. Finding that touch was hard when her hands were numb.

“I was struggling with my fist because I could not feel my hand,” said Inyakov. “My hand warmers weren’t working. I was just trying to keep the ball in the lanes. If one shot doesn’t work, the focus should still be on the next.”

Having shot a single target at the same course seven days earlier under sunny conditions, Iniakov had only passed 2 through 13 holes before grappling with her fist and seeing her get stuck in a pair of holes.

While Abanico was collecting her best rounds under horrific conditions, teammate Coco He also finished with 83 points to put the Pirates in a good position.

“The first nine holes weren’t bad,” he said. “Then it started raining. My club started slipping out of my hand. I changed my style. I’m really fine. I’m glad I finished the front nine before it started streaming.”

Despite the circumstances, the Pirates’ results were respectable as Michelle Wang finished an 88 and Siobhan Ong a 90.

He said, “Irons weren’t bad.” “My position could have been better. The balls were slowing down because of the rain. It was difficult to judge the distances.”

Calais Hall of Salinas had a one-stroke finish from the qualifiers as a single, matching Iniakov’s score of 77 in the tournament to finish eighth in the overall standings.

“It was hard to get hold of the club,” said Hall, who won the PURE Insurance Pro-Teen Championship last month. “My gloves were wet. My fists were slippery. Then it becomes a huge mental hurdle.”

With a birdie on the fourth hole, Hall was only past 2 through the first nine holes before the elements came into play on an already challenging course with the afternoon winds.

“I played really well on the back side,” said Hall, who has played twice in the Jabelan League. “I felt lucky that I got at least half of my run before it rained. I did everything I could.”

Carmel finished eighth as a team, five places down from last year, with Sophie Southard at 82. She was followed by Megan Ekemia (88), Anna Crocker (94), Elise Redhair (96) and Ava Martin (99).

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