She may be just 21 years old, but Ohio native Jillian Hollis speaks like she’s been on Tour for years. Maybe it’s her journalism degree, maybe it’s her midwestern charm. Whatever it is, she’s gaining a lot of fans in the Sylvania area, as she not only sets her sights on the LPGA Tour, but on being a good person, as well.
I spoke with her on Wednesday, before the tournament. Today, she shot an opening round two-over 73, and will look for a better round tomorrow to make it to the weekend. Here is our chat. Enjoy!
You said this is your second time playing here?
A: Yes, it is.
Q. So you had a sponsor exemption three, four years ago, and now you’re back as a new professional. What was the experience like a couple years ago compared to this year?
A: Oh, it was so great. It was one of my first pro events as an amateur. So it was a little bit nerve-racking, you know, going on to the practice green and the driving range, and seeing all of the people that I’ve watched on TV for so long. So it was definitely a great experience. I’ve played this golf course numerous times, just as a junior and in this tournament.
So it’s a little bit different now, because I know a lot of people out here. I have a coach that works with a lot of the girls out here, so he introduces me to them. And I played the U.S. Open earlier in the year, and have played several Symetra tour events. So it’s really, I’ve gotten my bearings for being a professional. So it’s been a little easier this time, a little more relaxed.
Q. I think this tournament is as close to home as you get, right?
A: It is. An hour and 15 minutes to be exact.
Q. Do you have family and friends that are stopping by?
A: I do. I just met my mom here. She just got in with my sister. So it’s nice to see them and my dad. My brothers are going to come. My brother and sister don’t get to watch me play golf a lot. They’re younger than me, and they’re doing their own things. It’s always so far away that it’s hard for them to make the trip. But it’s nice that they get to come see me this week.
Q. Is that a good thing for you when you’re on the course and you have family walking with you?
A Yes. I’m very close with my family, and my mom and my dad are always at tournaments when they can be, and my mom played golf, so she knows how it is. It’s really comforting just because I spend so much time with them when I am at home, and to have them on the golf course watching me is just great.
Q. When some golfers play close to home, they tend to put pressure on themselves and subsequently do not play well. Do you feel added pressure to play well being that this is an Ohio tournament?
A: I really don’t. Because there are so many people out here watching other girls, you know, you have to think that not all the focus is always on you. And if you put that pressure on yourself, it’s just another handicap that you’re going to have. So I just think that I’m going out there, and it’s a bonus that it’s in my home State because it is so close. And if I have people that want to come out and watch me, that’s awesome. It’s just what I’ve always wanted is people to come watch me play, and to play out here on the LPGA. It will just be great practice going forward.
Q. Did you learn golf growing up with a golf family, or how did that work?
A: Yes, so my mom played college golf, and she played at Ohio State. She played professionally for a couple years and played over in Europe. Then she taught golf for 15 years, so she knows quite a bit about golf and the golf swing and everything. So she kind of taught me as soon as I could walk, and I just fell in love with it and went from there.
Q. Was there a player that you sort of idolized growing up or just your mom?
A: Oh, I always idolized my mom. I always wanted to beat her. That was my goal. I always wanted to outdrive her, and as soon as I could do those things, it was, okay, what’s next? And I have always enjoyed watching Lexi play and Michelle Wie, and all those girls. They’re closer to my age, so it’s really fun watching them. I love Christina Kim, and I’ve actually become friends with her now, so it’s even cooler now being friends with someone you’ve watched play for so long.
Q. Did you have any star struck moments walking on the tee with a person, or on the putting green?
A: I think more when I played four years ago because I didn’t know anybody, and Lexi got on the putting green and she has her whole crowd. Same thing at the U.S. Open. I was putting with her on the putting green because we had a rain delay, so it was like all of us there at once. There were so many people around, and it’s just cool to see her following and all the people that come out and watch and support her. I think that’s great for women’s golf. So it’s definitely neat to see all those girls out there.
Q. You made it to the weekend at the U.S. Open?
A: I did.
Q. What were your expectations going in, and how did that compare with what you did?
A: Well, I really was just trying to make the cut and make the weekend. That was my number one goal. I ended up doing that, and just playing how I’ve been playing all spring. I had a really good spring and continued that into my pro career so far. I had my coach as my caddie. We had that really long weather delay on Friday, so I teed off in the afternoon, got one hole in, and they blew the horn, and we waited for about four hours to go back out.
Played a couple holes in the dark, and got suspended again till the morning, not because it was getting dark, because another storm came in. So it was a tough week, just because the course was setting up really long, and the ball didn’t travel very far just because it was so wet.
So definitely battling the elements was a thing, and then playing 31 holes of golf on Saturday was very exhausting. So I was a little tired come Saturday, Sunday, and I think that’s another balance you have to learn when you come out here is what’s best for you. What do you need to do in the beginning of the week, and how do you need to balance all your time so you’re not really tired come Sunday.
Q. Do you have a goal for this week?
A: This week, the goal this week, for all tournaments, it’s always you want to make the cut. But my goal is to play golf like I’ve been playing the whole year, and to keep my emotions in check. Because I’m not so worried as much of how I am as a player, but how I am as a person on the golf course mentally.
Mentally is what you have to overcome. If you can not get emotional about all the stuff that’s going on, like I said earlier, and all the people that are watching you, and not alter what you’re doing because it’s on a bigger stage. I’m just trying to treat everything like a normal golf round. That’s my biggest goal for the week. That’s my goal every time I come to one of these bigger tournaments, is just to play golf.
Q. Do you come by this mental maturity naturally or is this through coaching?
A: Do you think I’m mentally mature (laughing)?
Q. Yeah, at least your approach golf-wise.
A: Well, part of it has been going through three years of college and playing college golf. I think that’s so important for anybody to do, at least go play a little bit in college and get that experience, because you do deal with a lot of outside things.
I’m a journalism, communications major, so I’ve got a lot of practice getting to talk in front of people, and I love writing and reading and everything along those lines. So I appreciate what you guys do, and all the work that goes behind this, because I know it’s a lot of work.
Just all the experience that I’ve had playing and playing for my coach, and then playing these past couple of tournaments, it’s just been — I’ve learned a lot.
Q. Was that a tough decision to leave Georgia?
A: It was, because I was planning on doing Q-school in the fall. Three of my two other teammates and I did Q-school, and it was a grind. My one teammate didn’t make it through first stage, and my other teammate didn’t make it through second, and so they decided to stay. I got all way through third stage.
When I was done with the whole thing, it was like, this is a grind. To even think about doing it next year, because I was doing it for the experience, and I got as far as I got. And my coach was like, “You’d be stupid to not go do it.”
So he was fully behind me, and we have a great relationship now, and he caddied for me in the U.S. Open.
So he’s really happy for me to see me do it, and I’m finishing school right now, and still taking classes. I turned into some homework last night. So it’s like I haven’t even left yet. But no, it’s been a great decision so far, and I’m really glad that I’m doing it.
I’m taking two classes this summer, so I’m trying to find a balance, trying to figure out what I’m going to do in the fall. So far I’m signed up for 12 hours, so we’ll see. We’ll see if I actually take all 12.
Q. Do you have any thoughts on LeBron leaving?
A: You know, I’ve really asked everybody about that in the Pro-Ams because they’re all from Ohio, and everyone’s given me different answers. I think it would be selfish to be really sad that he was leaving, because he’s played the best basketball of his career this past year and the past couple of years, and to get swept in the finals is just — it’s really sad to see.
He’s only got a couple more years, so I think it’s great that he’s going out to play for the Lakers. Will he do more there? I don’t know. But I think he’s really happy, and it’s just really emotional. I’m really happy for him. But I don’t think I’ll be watching him a ton when he goes to the Lakers. Not a huge Lakers fan, so…
Q. Have you ever gone to a Cavs game when he was on the team?
A Yes. Actually, so this past couple years tickets have been really expensive, so I haven’t gone to as many as I used to when I was younger. My dad, he played a little basketball in college, so he’s a huge Cavs fan, and watched all the games and records all of them. I’d go to a couple games with him. But he likes watching them on TV better because he can see everything that’s going on. So I’ve watched my fair share of Cavs Games over the years.