TEMPE, Ariz. — Jillian Hollis celebrated her 21st birthday in style on Sunday. The junior from Rocky River, Ohio, equaled the lowest single-round score in school history – in amazingly similar circumstances to the original mark – en route to winning medalist honors at the PING/ASU Invitational.
Hollis fired a 7-under 65 to tie the record previously established by Vicki Goetze on the same ASU Karsten Golf Course layout in the final round of the 1992 NCAA Championships.
“I just had this feeling and I knew that I was going to play this good,” Hollis said. “It’s my birthday and I was already on a high so why not make eight birdies?”
Hollis finished the tourney at 9-under 207, also tying the fourth-best 54-hole score in school history. Her effort sparked the Bulldogs to a season-best 8-under 280 round on Sunday and pushed Georgia to fourth on the team leaderboard.
“The only word I can think of to describe it is ’special’ and that doesn’t seem to do today justice,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “What Jillian did is what you see the great players on Tour do. And to do that on her birthday and tie the school record on the same course Vicki Goetze set it on, that’s spooky good.
“You could tell when you saw her that she was in the zone,” Brewer continued. “She was so focused on what was in front of her and wasn’t paying attention to anything around her. As an athlete, that’s what you dream of. As a coach, I hope she finds a way to do it a few more times this year.”
Georgia completed play at 2-under 862. No. 15 Arizona captured the team title at 852. The Bulldogs trailed No. 16 Washington and No. 17 Oklahoma State but finished ahead of No. 8 Arizona State and No. 18 Colorado.
“We’ve come so far from six weeks ago (when the spring season started) to now,” Brewer said. “We talked about it last night. We wanted to be better today than we were yesterday. We did that. We still know we can clean up a few more things. We’ve shown we can compete with the best teams in the country, which we expect to do.”
Hollis began the day in relatively pedestrian fashion. She was 1-over through her first six holes, with a birdie at No. 2. Hollis covered the final dozen holes at 8-under. She recorded birdies at No. 7, No. 8, No. 9, No. 10, No. 14, No. 15, No. 16 and No. 18.
“I’ve been working really, really hard,” Hollis said. “I think I always work really hard. It’s cool when it pays off. I figured out my golf swing during the round today. I hit a shot on No. 7 and I was like ‘oh, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ I don’t think I hit a shot outside 15 feet from No. 6 on. It was pretty cool.”
Also vital to the Bulldogs’ team tally was Gabriela Coello’s 3-under 69, which represents her career-low loop at Georgia. Rinko Mitsunaga’s even-par 72 and Isabella Skinner’s 74 rounded out the counting rounds.
Coello bounced back from an 82 in the second round to shoot 13 strokes better a day later.
“When a player has needed to respond for us, they’ve responded,” Brewer said. “That’s why we’re seeing the success we’re experiencing. We are learning from the mistakes we do make and continuing to get better. That’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
Hollis also won last weekend’s 3M Augusta Invitational. She is the first Georgia golfer to post back-to-back wins since Shauna Estes won the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic and the SEC Championships in 1999.
Overall, Mitsunaga tied for 19th at 218; Coello and Skinner both tied for 33rd at 223; and Paula Neira Garcia, who shot 78 on Sunday, tied for 42nd at 225. Stephanie Carras, who was competing individually, posted a 79 in the final round and tied for 62nd at 232.
Georgia will return to action in three weeks when the Bulldogs host the 46th annual Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic at the UGA Golf Course.