It has already occurred to Mikayla Dubnik that the plane ride home from Maricopa, Arizona, on Sunday evening won’t be consumed by a 40-page reading assignment in one of her textbooks. That, in itself, “is amazing.”
Finals have wrapped at Mercer University, leaving Dubnik, a sophomore, and her teammates with a lightness to focus on the golf at this week’s National Golf Invitational and, for once, the pool. Rounds end in relaxation, not the familiar rat race.
In her postseason debut on Friday, Dubnik fired an opening 4-under 68 at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, leading Mercer into fourth on the eight-team leaderboard. With more challenging hole locations and wind gusts in play for Saturday’s second round, Dubnik backed up to 76 but still helped Mercer maintain its fourth-place position on the leaderboard at 17 over.
The Bears trail leader Penn State by eight shots, with Santa Clara and Iowa in the No. 2 and 3 positions entering the final round. Penn State’s Michelle Cox leads the individual race at 6 under.
It’s an every-woman-counts scenario for Mercer this week. Head coach Michele Drinkard traveled four players to the NGI. One player remains at home after taking a redshirt season and another entered the transfer portal at the end of the season (per Mercer policy, a player in the transfer portal is no longer part of the team).
Earlier in the season, Mercer competed at the Florida State Match-Up with four players when Dubnik was unable to compete due to illness. That provided experience for Dubnik’s three teammates but to Dubnik, playing as a four-woman squad this week is about never giving up.
“At the end of the day, every score counts,” she said. “You just have to fight through every one even if you aren’t playing your best.”
Dubnik found the atmosphere at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes heartwarming from the standpoint that officials have worked hard to support college golfers who didn’t make it past their conference.
Drinkard, a women’s college golf veteran who has been at Mercer for eight years, feels it too.
“The vibe of the trip is to celebrate and the atmosphere has been incredible at the club, the staff, the green superintendents – they all want us there and it’s just been very special,” she said. “It doesn’t have the vibe of cutthroat. It has just a nice vibe of celebration of these teams and to create history.”
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