Mikayla Dubnik possesses once-in-a-generation golf talent, and a zeal for life.
Her fellow North Hall teammates share the same affinity for joy. Their youthful innocence combines with their state championship-caliber talent for an unbreakable bond, mimicking the unconditional love of a family.
“We have good times, and when it’s time to get down to the books, we save the jokes for later and get to work,” Dubnik said of the healthy balance.
North Hall coach Rodney House added, “It can get lonely out here sometimes, so if we’re not cutting up or laughing, it can wear on you,” House said.
The team’s energy helps to take the weight off of Dubnik in competition as evidenced in her Hall County Championships performance in March. She broke a Hall County record, scoring 4-under-par 68 at Chicopee Woods.
“I had a record of 69 before at one other tournament, so breaking my own record has definitely boosted my confidence more because I knew that after Hall county, I could do it again,” Dubnik said. “I’ve played the rest of the season only one tournament over par or even, so it has definitely helped to boost my confidence.”
One month later, she led the Lady Trojans to their first Area 3-3A Championship with an even par 71.
With the region championship win, North Hall punched their ticket to the state championship for the second consecutive year and second time in program history.
The Class 3A state championship, will be held at Arrowhead Pointe Golf Course on May 21 and 22 in Elberton.
“She (Dubnik) is a special golfer,” House said. “I know what good athletes look like, and she’s one of them. She just has something about her — she shows up, she works hard. She is my girl that’s here first everyday and the last to leave. She has talent, but she puts work in.”
Her skill elevates teammates. When paired with Dubnik, the team’s No. 2 golfer, Lyric Sanford, tends to play at a higher level. House says the fellow sophomore never folds under the pressure, crediting her individual skills for keeping her in competition.
Dubnik traces her passion for golf back to her family.
Growing up in Gainesville, her father would take her golfing at the Chattahoochee Golf Club. The special father-daughter time was scarce with a set of younger triplets at home.
Basketball was her first love, but golf offered her a better avenue for success, and with that success, fostered Dubnik’s unique work ethic. She looks to her sister, 16-years her senior, for inspiration.
“My older sister, she’s two or three degrees into a nursing degree, and I’ve watched her have two kids while earning degrees at the same time,” Dubnik said. “She’s put the work into getting those degrees, and I know if I put the same way towards golf, I can get somewhere in life.”
As Tiger Woods clawed his way back into the America’s hearts by winning the 2019 Masters, Dubnik had a similar breakthrough. Woods returning from his back injury showed her that “you can get through anything if you put the work in and try.”
Moving from Alabama last June offered its own adversity.
“I struggled having to relearn the area again and make new friends again because where I was used to felt like home,” Dubnik said.
She had spent seven years in Alabama after her first few years living in Gainesville. The return became easier once she was acclimated to the golf team, which didn’t take long.
But no matter how light-hearted her teammates are, the mental part of the game can still threaten her performance. When her play is sub-par, Dubnik succumbs to silence. To wake from her quietness, she’ll look to her mom for support.
“My mom definitely has helped,” Dubnik said. “My dad does not show a lot of emotion, so my mom being there, she’s always smiling at me especially if I’ve had a bad hole. Having her there and having the team there helps get golf off my mind.”
When she can’t feed off of someone else, songs will fill her head.
“Little stuff like that has helped me get through nerve-racking rounds, and it just takes the stress and nerves away for a few minutes,” Dubnik said.
House is set to coach Dubnik for two more seasons upon graduation, and he’s excited to watch how her play affects the community.
“When she does good, it’s just fun to see,” House said. “It’s good for girls golf. It’s just going to make all girls around here better.”