Women’s golf head coach Rebecca Mailloux has a veritable United Nations as a team.
Five countries — United States, Canada, Iceland, Argentina and Spain — are represented across the seven-member team.
It’s a group that has blended cultural identities into a cohesive unit united under one goal: winning golf tournaments.
“We’re from different backgrounds and countries, but one thing we have in common is love for golf, and we’re all very driven people with a high work ethic,” said sophomore Kay Zubkus. “That’s one thing we can all bond with, despite where you are from or what else you like to do in your life. We all just want to work hard for a common goal. Ultimately, it’s going to be the glue that brings us together.”
Zubkus and Olivia Stoll represent the United States, Paula Badino and Martina Biancuzzo are from Argentina, Julia Sanchez is from Spain, Arna Kristjansdottir is from Iceland, and Megan Miron is from Canada.
“It’s really fun that we’re so different, but everyone has something to give to the team,” said Sanchez.
The Lakers’ international appeal began with Mailloux’s former assistant, Axel Ochoa.
Ochoa, a native of Buenos Aires, ran a recruiting business connecting Argentine players with U.S. schools and wanted Mailloux to meet one of his clients, Maria Sol Pose.
Pose, who graduated in 2021, spent five years with the Lakers and opened the doors for her fellow Argentines, Badino and Biancuzzo.
“Axel had that Argentine connection, obviously with the players there, and knew the talent,” said Mailloux. “When a coach speaks your language, I think that gives you some reassurance, confidence and comfortability.”
Others took a more straightforward approach in catching Mailloux’s attention. Kristjansdottir sent her an email, inquiring about available positions on the team.
“This email caught my eye,” said Mailloux. “Arna was chipping with snow and mountains in the background. If you’re going somewhere warmer than Iceland, there’s nowhere better to come than Michigan.”
Despite the cultural differences, the squad is a close-knit one. Most of the team lives in two houses off-campus. Zubkus said if she ever needs help with Spanish class, she knows who to ask.
“We don’t really argue,” said Zubkus. “We spend time together, and it’s fun. I can go home and still want to hang out with them even if it’s right after practice, which is something you don’t usually see on a team. But, I think that makes a very conducive environment for success moving forward, especially into the spring competitive season.”
They are parlaying their camaraderie into wins. The Lakers won four tournaments last fall, beginning with their own Gilda’s Club Laker Fall Invite in September.
They followed it with wins at the Bulldog Fall Invite at Big Rapids, the Davenport Panther Invitational in October, and finally the Dennis Rose Intercollegiate Tournament in Hawaii, leading a 12-team field.
“At the first tournament, that’s when it clicked,” said Miron. “We’d been practicing, but once we started competing, we started to gel even more than we thought we could.
“Since then, it’s become better and better with each competitive round we’ve done.”
For Badino and Miron, becoming part of a team has been a welcoming experience.
“I was used to going to tournaments on my own, playing by myself, and then just going home,” said Badino. “Here, I have my teammates asking, ‘How did you do?’ It’s really fun to be a part of a team and know there are others out there playing for the same thing.”
The team’s international composition, which is familiar among NCAA Division I competitors, is becoming more commonplace in Division II athletics, said Mailloux.
“Golf has always been that way with international competition,” said Mailloux. “People are recognizing the talent overseas and seeing it develop here. I’ve certainly seen it here.”
The Lakers open their spring season in March with the Augustana Spring Fling Invitational at Palm Desert, California.