Some 26 years ago, when the LPGA tournament in Toledo was still in its early stages, tournament director Judd Silverman offered a sponsor exemption to a golfer who helped Ohio State win the Big Ten championship in 1988.
When Jillian Hollis, a native of Rocky River, Ohio, showed up as sponsor exemption in 2014, Silverman crossed paths with Hollis’ mother and felt as if he had stepped into a time machine.
Jillian Hollis talks with members of the media Wednesday, July 11, 2018, the day before competitive play begins for this year's LPGA Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows in Sylvania.
Sharon Minnich, the OSU golfer, was now Sharon Hollis, and without realizing it, Silverman had gone into the second generation by giving a sponsor exemption to Jillian.
“We get there, and she sees Judd, and Judd sees her, and he's like, 'I know you from somewhere,'” Hollis recalled on Wednesday. “She said, ‘You gave me a sponsor's exemption back when I played for Ohio State.’ And he was like, ‘You're Sharon Minnich.’
In a full-circle moment this week, Hollis is back at Highland Meadows Golf Meadows three decades after her mother first played it.
Hollis returns to Toledo as a new professional player following a highly successful three years at the University of Georgia. Hollis was a three-time All-American, which included a first-team spot earlier this year, and she finished the year ranked No. 8 in the NCAA.
The Marathon Classic is the closest tournament to the family’s home in Rocky River, about 115 miles away from Toledo, and Hollis’ mother and siblings are in town for the event.
Even with the close-to-home feel, Hollis said she isn’t feeling any added pressure.
“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,” Hollis said. “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.”
And every time the Hollises run into Silverman this week, they’ll have a reminder of how small the golf community can feel.
“He's like, ‘I still can't believe that I gave her an exemption and I gave you an exemption,’ ” Hollis said, laughing. “So such a small world. And I think that's a story that he told me that he tells everybody.”
ARROWS AWAIT: In the first round on Thursday, two St. Ursula Academy graduates will be in the field as Pinya Pipatjarasgit and Lizzie Win both received sponsor exemptions to be part of the field.
Pipatjarasgit graduated from St. Ursula earlier this year, while Win will be a junior at Seton Hall in the fall. Win said Wednesday that the pair is going into the tournament with hopes to last until the weekend.
“I've watched people play here my entire life, and I think it's a very doable goal for both of us to make the cut,” Win said. “Basically, I can only take positives out of this and getting to play professionals and realize that we're both good enough to compete at this level in the future after college.”
Like Win, Pipatjarasgit said she wants to hang around for as long as possible, but is still using the experience to improve as a golfer.
“I'm just going to play the best I can, hopefully I make the cut, but we'll see,” she said. “I just think playing the first two days, it's just a great experience for me. Like Lizzie said, you can only take away positives from this.”
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