Nicole Mercer knows she wants to work with numbers.
For that, golf is a perfect sport. Even better for the Newark senior, her low numbers have not provided many difficult calculations.
Mercer, who played with the boys team in 2012, was a consistent top-10 finisher during the Ohio Capital Conference season. She twice placed eighth in the four competitions, playing in a league that includes Dublin Jerome, Olentangy and Pickerington Central.
“I feel like my hard work is finally paying off, and my ability is starting to show,” Mercer said. “Before I would shoot a high score, and it would be: ‘You missed those shots, and you could have done that.’ Now, I feel like I am where I should be.”
The biggest change for Mercer this season has been one of the most obvious. Playing the ladies tees has allowed her scores to drop considerably.
More consistent playing time has helped, too. Mercer played in occasional summer tournaments when she was younger, but 2012 was the first time she had played on a team.
The decision this season was made to allow her to play with girls during the season rather than just in October’s Division I sectional tournament.
“I was used to playing with boys that didn’t really talk,” Mercer said. “Then you walk into a bunch of girls, and they are all giggling with their teams. But the yardage is probably the best part. It is a huge jump forward.”
Mercer is coached by her dad, Tim, a former boys varsity coach, and the biggest challenge has been making a schedule. Once the invitational season ended when school started, Nicole Mercer was able to start playing in dual matches with area teams.
“Granville, Licking Valley, Heath, Newark Catholic, Lakewood, they have been very generous to allow us to come and join in,” Tim Mercer said. “It really makes it pretty nice when it is local because of the travel. Pickerington Central had her over Monday for a nine-hole match at Turnberry. A couple of the other OCC schools have asked her, but we had opportunities to play (in Licking County).”
Nicole Mercer appeared to be headed for a significant personal best Sept. 10 in the final OCC meet. She played the front nine at 38 before settling for tying her best at 86.
“The back side was very disappointing,” Mercer said. “Once I played the front nine, I felt pretty confident. I figured I could just relax and play the back just how I did the front. Then, I had a bad 10th hole, and my mental game just went downhill. One day you are shooting your best round, and the next day it is like you are a whole different player.”
Tim Mercer has used a technique with his daughter he used with his boys players. Instead of shooting for a personal best each meet, he sets a target score for her.
Nicole Mercer recently shot a 40 at Granville Golf Course, eclipsing her dad’s target score by two strokes. Tim Mercer said when he coached the boys, the reward was teammates had to clean clubs. With no teammates, it defaults to dad.
Nicole Mercer has not yet decided on a college, but she knows she would like to do accounting or actuarial science. Playing in college just recently came onto the radar.
Her future might be more CPA than LPGA. But as her scores continue to drop, more doors will open.
“I feel like I have kind of reached a climax in my game, and I don’t really want to stop,” Nicole Mercer said. “I want to go to the next season and keep improving.”