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Focused on the game: Senior Allison Meyerink leads Mitchell girls golf in another state title chase

May 28—MITCHELL — Golf and basketball are two sports that cannot be more different.

But for Mitchell senior Allison Meyerink, both have taught her to be prepared for anything that comes her way.

"They're both pretty mental sports," she explained. "You can't get down on yourself, otherwise it just goes downhill and you feel out of it. Being mentally tough can go for both sides."

Having the strength to tune out distractions and misses while preparing to play both sports helped Meyerink to where she is now.

As a two-sport athlete for Mitchell High School this season, Meyerink started all 24 games for the Kernel girls' basketball team en route to a 20-4 record and a sixth-place finish in the Class AA state tournament, averaging 6.3 points per game. She was second on the team in total rebounding (3.5) while leading the Kernels in field-goal percentage (.526).

On the course, Meyerink has won five tournaments on the season and helped lead the Kernel girls golf team to their third Eastern South Dakota Conference title in the past four seasons. She's tied with Aberdeen Central's Olivia Braun for the lowest 18-hole season scoring average (75) and has fired two of the three under-par rounds in Class AA.

Not quantified by stats and scores is her leadership for Kernels golf, setting an example for the rest of the team for the way she goes about practices and bringing good energy to an experienced group, enjoying the challenges golf has to offer.

"They love the challenge of the sport," said Jeff Meyerink, girls golf head coach and Allison's father. "Allison is a great leader for this team by the way she carries herself, interacts with her teammates, and the positivity she brings to the team as a whole. She's a really good person and leader, and that's hard to find."

Both Allison and Jeff Meyerink share a similar parallel when it comes to getting into the game of golf.

They each picked up their first set of golf clubs as little kids, taking advantage of any opportunity to go to the course, even if it was to get swings in on the driving range. By Allison's own admission, a lot of her first years of playing golf are a blur in her memories, while not really knowing what was happening on the course.

However, a moment from 2015, when Allison was just 8 years old, was captured by her father on video. Setting up a ball on a tee just in front of a water hazard in the field near their house, Allison's demeanor when approaching the shot convinced Jeff Meyerink that the game of golf clicked right away for her.

"When she gets up to hit the shot, she has a little anxiety over it," Jeff Meyerink said, "but every time we teed the ball up, she would hit it well over the water. If it was in the front yard with no obstacles, it wouldn't be nearly as good... for a girl that young to have that good of a swing, she was going to be pretty special when she started to compete."

Allison's understanding of the game came more gradually, beginning to figure out the intricacies of a complicated sport as she grew older. It also fueled her own passion for the game of golf, pushing herself to score lower and hit unfamiliar shots with the guidance of her dad-turned-coach and the support of her teammates.

"He pushed me to be my best, and I definitely would not have been where I am right now without him and all his help," Allison Meyerink said about her father. "I love being at the course with my team and my coach, and having them by my side makes the drive even more worthwhile."

When playing a competitive round out on the golf course, Allison Meyerink focuses on her own game and what she herself can do over 18 holes to help the Kernels out.

Even while playing against the course and conditions on a particular day, she also takes mental notes of what her playing partners are doing to influence her own decisions.

"I can see how they play a shot and then take those tips and use them on a different hole," Meyerink said. "Also see how much wind is in play and the temperature affects it, and what club to hit on par-threes. It's just being aware of what they're doing out there, but at the same time, focus on your own game."

A lot of the focus of late has come in the wedge game, where Meyerink says it's been a "hit or miss" at times. While golf wedges are one of the most versatile clubs in the bag regarding the number of shots you can play, a lot of work has gone into ball positioning in relation to the stance and clean ball striking, with an emphasis on full swings.

The number of wedge shots Meyerink will play in a round has increased over the years, naturally due to her driving distance off the tee. By Jeff Meyerink's estimations, Allison's drives are around 260 to 270 yards, sometimes surpassing 300 yards. With the power comes more pressure to execute around the green and on the putting surface.

"It doesn't matter how you drive the ball. If you have a good wedge game, you can always make par," Jeff Meyerink said. "Whether you're under a tree and have to punch out or however you get to that position, from 100 yards in, that's where the game is won or lost."

"Even if you chip it way past the hole, but you're still on the green, you can still make a two-putt," Allison Meyerink added. "I focus more on the putting aspect and just limit myself to not having any three-putts since that'll lower your score."

While Jeff Meyerink has had an influence on Allison's game, she's been able to forge her own path and find her own passion for golfing. She'll continue to play with her father at the helm of the Dakota Wesleyan golf team next fall, along with playing basketball in the winter.

Excited for the next chapter in the college ranks, the time spent at Mitchell High School will always be held close for both of them, from the first tee shot Allison hit as a seventh-grader for the Kernels in Watertown to her final putt in next week's Class AA state golf tournament in Yankton.

"She should be proud and hold her head up high," Jeff Meyerink said about Allison's time at MHS. "She's been such a great influence on every girl who's been a part of the team, and I think they would all tell you the same thing."

As Allison Meyerink goes for the state championship both individually and as part of the Kernels next week, she's learned a lot more this season than she anticipated from her previous years. Remembering her teammates and coaches who've helped her become the player and the person she is, the goal is to enjoy her last high school tournament, potentially with hardware attached.

"I just want to take in all the moments and have some fun," she said. "At the same time, we all have a goal out there, and hopefully, we can reach it."