Making it to the LPGA Tour isn’t easy. This pro has to do it twice
So often we hear stories of the grind to make the PGA Tour from the Korn Ferry Tour, but this week we’re looking at Jillian Hollis’ journey from the Epson Tour to the LPGA Tour. Hollis won twice and finished fifth on the 2019 Epson Tour money list to earn her LPGA Tour card but then dealt with the fallout of the pandemic and injuries.
She lost her card after the adjusted season ended in 2021. She played both tours with dual status in 2022 but is again full-time on the Epson Tour this year as she works her way back to the LPGA.
(Ed. note: This Q and A has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
Jack Hirsh: I know it’s only been one event, but how would you say your start to 2023 is going so far?
Jillian Hollis: It’s good. We had a pretty long offseason, so 2022 and 2023 sort of melt together and that like November, December, January, February, March area. I had a pretty productive offseason and had a lot of rest as well, which is really great. I had a good tournament last week. I played some steady golf and some kind of tough conditions and it’s really great to see my hard work paying off pretty early. I thought it was nice to have the week off to fine-tune some things.
Hirsh: You had almost as good of a start as you could hope for with a second-place finish last week. Does that change anything moving forward as you try to get your card back?
Hollis: It doesn’t change anything. My goal is to just get a little bit better every day and every week. I think when you get too results based, you get too much thinking of, okay, I need to finish here, I need to be here. I love playing competitive golf. I love winning. I love, you know, I love going out there and meeting people that’s what I love about this game is like you put all this work in on your own and then you get to go and put it to the test. And I love having that little bit of nervousness or pressure and it’s where the historic golf shots come from. That’s the most exciting thing about getting to play every week or every other week for a living. It’s the best job ever.
Hirsh: This is your second stint on the Epson Tour, what was that first season like?
Hollis: It was different from college golf because it’s the same grind, but different. In college, you play a tournament and have two weeks off or three weeks off. You have all your college stuff in between. When I started on the Epson Tour in 2019, I was still finishing my degree at Georgia. It was a good balance of golf and life. It doesn’t even feel like work. The grind has always been fun for me.
Hirsh: How motivating is it coming from a school like Georgia that has so much success in both the men’s and women’s pro games?
Hollis: I’ve never played with Harris English, but he’s in St. Simons Island, Ga., where I live. A lot of the guys who graduate then move down here. I played two years with Greyson Sigg on the golf team. I play with Sepp Straka. They’re all really good players who have had success on the PGA Tour. Harris is one of the nicest people I have ever met, Hudson Swafford as well. I’ve gotten to ask them questions and talk to them and it’s a really cool environment. It’s really nice when you see PGA Tour golfers rooting for you. Any little tidbits I can get from people who have had that experience of winning at the highest level is definitely great to have.
Hirsh: You earned LPGA status after one year on the Epson Tour and then lost it in 2021 after a pretty crazy couple of years. Did you treat that as a setback?
Hollis: We took five months off of golf [because of the pandemic] in the middle of the busiest stretch. I got in contention in a tournament with Inbee Park before that. And she’s a legend. It was so fun watching her play. Then we get this email about the coronavirus but that it was only in China. Our next tournament in China got canceled. Then I go back to the States and I’m getting ready for the next tournament and they’re like, ‘Okay it’s here now. We’re going to take a month off.’ Then one month turned into two months, then three. We had no idea what was going on. But I mean, to have that as my rookie year? It was maybe a little bit of a letdown. I then had an injury that was bothering me at the beginning of 2021 and I took seven weeks off. I missed applying for a medical by one tournament. You need to miss so many in a row.
Hirsh: What lessons did you learn?
Hollis: Don’t kill your body just to try to make cuts because it’s your first year. It stunk at the time, but now I’m so grateful for everything that happened at the time. It’s made me mentally tougher in that sense.
Hirsh: What did you wish you had known?
Hollis: That there would be a global pandemic [laughs]. You mean actually on the tour? I’ve hired a trainer. I never really wanted to take care of my body in school. But when you play 20 to 25 weeks out of the year, you need to work out while playing too.