MONTEREY – Hands were going numb from the cold brought on by a sudden gust of rain and wind. Grabbing the golf club forced some to alter their swings – although some clubs continued to fly gray skies.

Depending on which part of the course you were on during Tuesday’s Central Coast Section Finals, golfers had to deal with rain on their faces or shots coming to a sudden stop on soggy fairways.

“It was probably one of the toughest rounds I’ve played since,” said Stevenson sophomore Nikki Iniakov. “My game has not calmed down. I was scrambling.

Overcoming the elements, last week’s low Pacific Coast Athletic League medalist still shot a team-best 77, helping the Pirates finish third in the Central Coast Section Championships at the golf course in Laguna Seca.

“It was the same conditions for everyone,” Iniakov said. “So that doesn’t give you an excuse. I have encountered snow and rain at tournaments in other states. Moving on as a team is so amazing.

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

In the process, Stevenson earned a measure of redemption by knocking out the team that knocked them out last year at Los Altos.

“All I remember is getting fourth place last year,” Stevenson coach Jason McArthur said. “We wanted the one that meant more. The children are delighted. Everything revolves around them. But it’s good to see them happy.

Last year, Iniakov was the only player from the county to qualify for the Northern California Championships, where she ended up advancing to the CIF State Finals and placing sixth as a rookie.

“All year Nikki has been like, ‘I want us to go there as a team,'” McArthur said. “I think she’s happier than anyone. We will have fun. »

While the scores were predictably low with the wet conditions, Anjela Abanico picked an opportune moment to produce her best score of the season, shooting an 83 for Stevenson.

Normally the Pirates’ No. 5 golfer, Abancio’s score turned a two-stroke deficit for third into a comfortable 10-stroke lead behind defending champion Valley Christian and runner-up Harker.

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

Dominant as Iniakov was in her first two years at Stevenson, just seven shots separated the rest of the team. By comparison, Los Altos’ top five were 18 shots apart.

Overcoming a bogey to open the tournament, Iniakov’s elements became a mental barrier for more than half of his 18 holes. Finding that contact was difficult when his hands went numb.

“I was struggling with my grip because I couldn’t feel my hands,” Iniakov said. “My hand warmers weren’t working. I was just trying to keep the ball on the fairways. If one shot doesn’t work, the focus should stay on the next shot.

After shooting 1 under on the same course seven days earlier in sunny conditions, Iniakov was just 2 out of 13 holes before difficulties with her grip saw her bogey a pair of holes.

As Abanico clocked her fastest lap in horrendous conditions, teammate Coco He also finished with an 83 to put the Pirates in good stead.

“My first nine holes weren’t bad,” he said. “Then it started to rain. My club started slipping out of my hands. I changed my approach. In fact, I did well. I’m glad I finished the front nine before it started to rain.

Despite the conditions, the Pirates’ scores were respectable with Michelle Wang finishing with an 88 and Siobhan Ong a 90.

“My irons weren’t bad,” he said. “My putting could have been better. The bullets were slowing down because of the rain. It was difficult to judge the distances.

Kaleh Hall of Salinas, who matched Iniakov’s tournament score of 77, finished one stroke away from qualifying as an individual to finish eighth overall.

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

With a birdie on his fourth hole, Hall was just 2 down on the first nine holes before the elements came into play on an already difficult course with the afternoon winds.

“I played really well on the back end,” said Hall, a two-time Gabilan Division star player. “I was lucky to have done at least half of my route before the rain arrived. I did everything I could do.

Carmel finished eighth as a team, five places higher than last year, with Sophie Southard at 82. She was followed by Megan Ikemiya (88), Anna Kroeker (94), Elise Rydeheard (96) and Ava Martin (99). ).