PORTERVILLE -- Bullard High golfer Matt Bennett didn't have to make birdie on the par-4 18th hole Tuesday at River Island Country Club.
But he didn't want to put his team's chances of winning the Central Section Team Golf Championships in jeopardy, either.
So the senior playing No. 6 on the ladder calmly lined up and sank a 15-foot birdie putt that secured the Knights' one-stroke victory over Stockdale -- 382-383 -- during the 10-team tournament.
Both teams advance to the California Interscholastic Federation Southern California Regional on June 3 at SCGA Golf Course in Murrieta.
Stockdale's Daniel King sank a birdie putt of his own just before Bennett's shot to finish off the Mustangs' round at 23-over. Had Bennett settled for par, the teams would have had to go to the tiebreaker, which Bullard would have won based on the better round between nonscoring players: the Knights' Dylan Seib shot 81 compared to the 85 shot by the Mustangs' Dalton Weaver.
"I didn't know if I had to make birdie or par, but after the Stockdale player made his putt, I was determined to make mine," Bennett said. "This is awesome. This is the most fun team I've ever been a part of."
All five of the Knights' scorers finished in the 70s while playing their first round on the course, led by the 3-over 75s shot by Nos. 1-2 players Tanner Manser and Michael Tolladay. No. 3 Brandon Stites shot 76.
Manser and Tolladay each carded even-par 36 over the first nine holes to stake Bullard to an early 187-191 lead over Stockdale at the turn.
"It was nerve-racking," Manser said. "I tried to par every hole and shoot low because I knew it would be close. The course played real tough, with all the pins tucked in the front [of the greens]. I just had to play it safe."
After the top three players on each team had finished 18 holes, Stockdale was in front 303-304. No. 5 player Nick Sorensen helped Bullard get back on top, shooting 38 on the back 9 -- three better than he had shot on the front -- to finish with a 79. Bennett finished at 77 thanks to his final-hole birdie.
"I'm very proud of the boys. They grinded it out and finished strong," Knights coach Randy Seib said. "We had no one go low, but no one finished high. It was definitely a team effort."
In winning its first section team title in at least 15 years, according to Seib, Bullard dethroned two-time defending champion Clovis West. The Golden Eagles defeated Bullard 371-378 a week ago for the North Area title.
"I'm just pumped, I was feeling it all year," Tolladay said. "I knew our team could do it. It was our time this year. We prepared for this with every practice."
Tournament host Porterville, led by Nate Jessup's 1-under 71, and Garces, which got a 71 from Kevin Antongiovanni, tied for third at 389.
Clovis West settled for fourth with Matt Swindle's 77 being the Golden Eagles' only round under 80 just one week after five of their six players shot 75 or better at Madera Municipal.
Frontier won a tight three-team battle for the Division II title, with its 428 just ahead of Fresno Christian (429) and Kingsburg (431). Jeffery Roseth had a 75 to lead Fresno Christian.
The Central Section golf season concludes May 25 at Dinuba's Ridge Creek Golf Club with the individual championships.