Spending a day in Dona's shoes

WWCC golfer Dona Dunovant won the NWAACC title for the second year in a row — but golf isn't all this busy mom, student and actress is made of.

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Toenails painted blue inside her golfing sandals, a tee flies as Dunovant drives during a round of golf with friends at the Walla Walla Country Club.

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Dona Dunovant puts on the Walla Walla Country Club golf course.

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At home, Dunovant spends time with her family, two high school-aged children, over dinner almost every night.

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Dona Dunovant heads out the door to rehearse for "Hairspray."

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During the evening, Dunovant takes the stage as Motormouth Maybelle for the summer musical Hairspray.

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Summer break is here, but mid-morning is normally spent in class at Walla Walla Community College's nursing program.

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First thing in the morning, Dona Dunovant sends off the Horizon Air flight.

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Dunovant heads away from the Horizon flight.

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Dona Dunovant heads down to the stage for the WWCC summer musical, "Hairspray."

So you think you're busy?

Try hustling around in Dona Dunovant's shoes for a day.

That's shoes as in plural pairs.

There's the shiny black work boots with the reinforced steel toes that offer some protection just in case she loses her grip on a 50-pound suitcase during the early morning shift at Walla Walla Regional Airport, where she works for Horizon Air.

If she has the time, she'll discard the boots mid-morning in favor of a pair of tennie runners before attending her first class at Walla Walla Community College, where she's a full-time student in the school's pre-nursing program.

Later on at home, where she's a single mother raising a pair of high school-age children, the tennies are likely to give way to house shoes or flip-flops.

Then right after dinner, she's off to rehearsal where you might spot her wearing a pair of tap-dancing shoes for her role as Motormouth Maybelle in the Walla Walla Community College Foundation's summer musical Hairspray.

But without question, Dunovant is most comfortable of all when she laces up her golf shoes and heads out on the course.

The busy-as-a-bee 48-year-old Oklahoma native has been an avid golfer since she was a small child growing up in Tulsa. That's where she learned the nuances of the game from her father, Hank Moore, whom she described as "a scratch golfer and a pioneer for blacks in golf."

"All my life I've been around golf," Dunovant said. "I would shag his range balls. He would hold golf tournaments in the summer, and we spent every weekend going to some little golf tournament.

"I was a daddy's girl, and (learning to play golf) was a natural progression."

A progression that ultimately led to her decision to turn out for WWCC coach Mike Rostollan's women's golf team in January of 2010. That came shortly after she decided it was time to get back to school.

"I just knew that I didn't want to lift people's 50-pound bags around for another 20 years," Dunovant said in explaining her decision to enroll at WWCC even though she had already earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and accounting at the University of Oklahoma in 1987.

"I had worked in an accounting office and decided that I didn't want to sit back in some office in an 8-to-5 job. So I asked myself, ‘What do I want to do when I grow up?' And nursing was the answer. And I knew they had a good program here."

In one of her first classes, she crossed paths with Jamie Robison, a Wa-Hi graduate who was in her first year playing golf for the community college.

"I knew her because I had helped her a couple of years earlier with the Wa-Hi team," said Dunovant, who had relocated in Walla Walla in 2003. "Jamie and her mother, Cindi, both encouraged me to play (college) golf, and they gave me Mike Rostollan's number. And even though he didn't know me from Eve, I called him and said I wouldn't mind playing."

Talk about serendipity.

All Dunovant did was put the WWCC women's golf program on the map by winning back-to-back individual NWAACC Championships.

"She made it look easy," Rostollan said of Dunovant's performance in defending her NWAACC crown last month at Canyon Lakes in Kennewick. "She has proven time and again that she is a cut above."

The coach admits that he knew little about Dunovant before her introductory telephone call.

"I'd heard her name because it showed up in some of the events that she had played in, but because she never played at Veterans Memorial I knew very little about her," Rostollan said. "I didn't even know she was going to school when she called me and asked if we could make this work.

"So I checked on her eligibility and made sure everything was in order. She was a good student, and nothing she had done in her amateur career effected her college career. She was good to go.

"It was a great get for me," Rostollan said. "But I didn't really find her, she found me."

Dunovant played in 16 NWAACC tournaments and won 12 of them during her two seasons on the WWCC team, Rostollan said.

"She was much the best," the coach said. "There are some other very capable women golfers in the NWAACC, but about the only way they could beat Dona was if she wasn't firing on all cylinders, which happened a few times.

"But her slugging percentage was pretty darned good."

Dunovant has expressed an interest in helping the Warriors program as an assistant coach while she continues to pursue her nursing degree at WWCC over the next three years. Rostollan isn't sure how schedules will mesh, but he welcomes any help his now former star player can provide.

"I know she'd love to help out," Rostollan said. "But when you are in the nursing program, it's tough. I had one nursing student try to play for me, and it was impossible because of schedules. I learned my lesson that year because there is no latitude.

"But however we can fit her in, be it in recruiting or what we do in the classroom or in lab work, she would be great. Of course, Robin Greene and Mike Levens are still on board as my assistants, so it would have to be on a volunteer basis. But Dona loves golf, and that's the main thing."

Even if Dunovant is unable to contribute to the WWCC golf team, she intends to do all she can to promote junior golf in the Walla Walla Valley. Especially for girls.

"It breaks my heart to know how many college scholarships go unused," Dunovant said. "And I think we can do better by our junior golfers, both male and female, here in Walla Walla. If nothing else, no matter how serious these girls are, golf is a game that you can play and enjoy and remain competitive for a long time."

Part of her motivation comes from her 14-year-old daughter, Kendall, who picked up the game recently and was a freshman member of Wa-Hi's girls golf team this spring.

"She did all right for her first year," Dunovant said. "She got to go to districts.

"One of her goals is for the headlines to say, ‘Baby D beats Momma D,'" she added with a chuckle. "But she looked at the scores and realizes that she still has her work cut out for her."

Dunovant's son, 17-year-old Marshall, is a 2011 Wa-Hi graduate. He hasn't taken up golf yet, but he played football and basketball for the Blue Devils.

First and foremost on Dunovant's priority list is earning her nursing degree, and she's already well on her way. Without transferring a single credit, she acquired her Associate of Arts degree in a matter of five quarters.

"I've never carried less than 17 credits," Dunovant said of her workload. "This spring I was at 22 credits."

It will require two additional years to earn her nursing credentials. But Dunovant plans to go for a bachelor's degree in the field, which will require a third year.

"I am probably looking at emergency room or intensive care to begin with, but ultimately I want to get into travel nursing," Dunovant said. "There are so many directions you can go. It's not all just hospital settings and doctors' offices.

"I have an aunt who is a nurse. She's 80 years old, and she still does it part-time."

In the meantime, Dunovant can enjoy the memories of two championship golf seasons and the teammates she shared them with. Even though she was twice the age of most of them.

"I don't feel like I am in my mid-40s," she said. "We were on a trip and I was playing my iPod, and they were all surprised by my selection of music because it was their music as well. I busted out in a rap song and knew it word for word, and they were, like, ‘Wow!'

"I am outgoing, and I think I fit into most situations."

Just so long as she's wearing the proper pair of shoes.

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